ChatGPT is being framed with Google's downfall

With the rise of ChatGPT and DALL-E, we’re seeing a rapid rise in ability for AI to churn out content that’s effectively indistinguishable from human content. This is scaring a lot of people: not just the copywriters who suddenly need a backup career plan or the artists whose art is being ripped, but also regular internet-goers who are mildly aware of the prevalence of bots in basically every semi-open online forum.

A screenshot I took a while ago with suspiciously new users, identified thanks to the Apollo app.

Everyone is asking: How will we know what is real? How can we be sure there was a human behind that screen? What if people start logging off in droves? With the introduction of AI as smart as this, there are lots of potential directions that the culture of our internet might take.

The threat(?) to search engines

As a part of everyone’s gears turning over this, there’s been a lot of discussion on whether ChatGPT is going to make search engines irrelevant. Specifically, whether Google will be made irrelevant with Bing’s plans to integrate ChatGPT.

While there are some interesting arguments, the recent discussion has me thinking: I don’t think ChatGPT can be credited as the potential existential threat to Google the Search Engine. Not only that, but “ChatGPT might give better answers than Google” isn’t even the right existential threat that Google faces. Chat GPT is only amplifying or accelerating a larger downward trend where search engines are failing to evolve with the shifting use case of We the People.

Congratulations, Google played itself

Google started out as a simple search engine with a slightly fancier algorithm for ranking pages. As more and more people used Google, companies started realizing that appearing at the top of the search page was pretty good for business. Soon, the entire industry of search engine optimization (SEO) was born. My first job out of college was at an SEO company, and appearing at the top of search pages was literally what paid my bills.

Part of what makes SEO an entire industry is that no one knows what the ranking algorithm is, other than a few clues given by Google, like “make sure your site works just as well on mobile devices”, and “your content should be thorough”. The latter clue is especially culpable for the downward trend.

As companies tried their darndest to provide “thorough” content, it led to bloated content. This is why you have to scroll through a 2000 page essay of sitting by the fire with a cup of tea before you get to the recipe for those cookies. It’s also probably why ever recipe site bombards you with ads: now that it’s lured you to the site by ranking #1 on Google, they’ll squeeze as much ad revenue as they can from your eyeballs in the few seconds you linger on the site.

People want answers, not advertisements

I’ve noticed a trend where people are getting fed up with the long-winded, inauthentic content that comes up on Google. GenZ have started to use TikTok and Instagram as their primary search platforms, because most of the time, there’s at least a face behind the answers you’re getting.

More coming soon…

  • ChatGPT as filling in for content churners
  • Increases the inauthenticity of ranked pages
  • People turn further away from Google
  • ChatGPT probably will give better answers in certain contexts – but unless it changes its ranking, it’ll keep heading downward as Gen Z and Gen Alpha grow

Further reading