Replacing Google with TikTok worked better than expected

TikTok is the new Google. Or so some people say. As TikTok grew, Google, in particular, began describing the app as an entirely new way to create and consume the internet and a potential existential threat to its own search engine. His Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of search at Google, said: said in July “About 40% of young people go to TikTok or Instagram instead of Google Maps or Search when looking for a place to have lunch.” new york times Others have talked to young internet users and found that, in fact, they are increasingly using TikTok and wanting what they call a Google counterpart.

On the one hand, there is nothing particularly surprising about this. The Internet is becoming a more visual place. YouTube has long been his second most popular search engine on the Internet, and in many cases, videos are actually the best answer. (It’s also worth noting that Raghavan and Google have real incentives to promote other search engines. Competition in this space makes Google look less like a scary monopoly to regulators. (Because of that.) Just find the best deli sandwiches near you? Beyond that, how many Google search use cases can TikTok actually replicate?

I tried to find out, but spent days searching TikTok for every query before searching Google. (You can also hear how it went in the latest episode The Bargecast.) What I discovered was, in some ways, less surprising: how many times TikTok is an absolutely useful search engine, even if its algorithms and content are not yet well-tuned. But where Google does it best, there is no competition. Ultimately, I doubt Google is nervous about improving his TikTok search capabilities. But YouTube probably should.

Because, apparently, that’s what our cool young kids are doing today. I searched for the phrase “restaurants near me” but nothing helped. Then I did a search for “restaurants in Del Rey, Virginia, where I live” and the results were surprisingly helpful. Matt & Tony’s A good new restaurant down the street from me. Delray Cafe It’s a neighborhood staple. The next result after scrolling is Restaurants in Delray Beach, California, literally thousands of miles from me. Next flip: Pork barrel BBQ, which is a few blocks from me and is pretty good.So Another Matt & Tony’s recommendation.So back to california. Matt & Tony’s again.

None of these videos were branded websites or the standard Yelp/Trip Advisor fare that tends to show up higher in Google search results. Some were created by TikTokers trying to become local influencers. DC spot When District mealOthers were foodies just showing off their latest finds. And Matt & Tony’s is really great.

In general, food searches are TikTok’s real strength. A great tool for finding recipes, especially the easy forchocolate chip cookieIt has led me to a feed of every type and recipe variation imaginable. Contains a large amount of useful information.

It’s Google’s most basic feature where TikTok search really fails. This means you can quickly access anything else on the Internet. The most popular searches on Google are words like “Facebook” and “Amazon,” and TikTok is utterly useless unless what you actually wanted was an endless supply of videos. showing strange crap Purchased on Amazon.

Beyond basics like “USPS tracking,” “tomorrow’s weather,” or “coffee shops near me,” much of what users search for is specific and transactional. Google has many functions, but primarily it is a quality question and answer service or a way to find more information on the Internet. Ask questions like “Who is the 16th President of the United States?”, “How many ounces is a cup?”, “What time does the Super Bowl start?” It almost goes nowhere on TikTok. (His second video of the presidential campaign Featuring Abraham Lincolnthis is something, but my measurement question is a lot of mosquito hack When Weird videos inspired by WikiHowThe Super Bowl was just a gathering get angry at friends Part of the problem is that the creators of TikTok didn’t create their content with search in mind, but answering these questions in a helpful way almost always makes for a bad video.

However, according to one study, the number one question on Google searches is “what to look at.”Lord, TikTok is outstanding. of first recommendation i was washed The Weekend Away, a Netflix lightning speed review for industry, protect Jacob, and some other new shows. After that, a certain creator’s “5 shows I like” Nothing about the results felt personalized or seemed to understand my tastes, but it did give me a lot of good ideas of what to watch. Flipping through is a much more enjoyable way to browse than reading through Google search results or swiping through rows of Netflix images.

My experience so far has been that TikTok is an adventure story where you choose to go down your own rabbit hole, a new and fun way to think about search. Just type in ‘Billie Eilish’, ‘ASMR’ or ‘best football play’ and watch as much as you like.

Like an adventure story where you choose your own rabbit hole, TikTok is a new and fun way to think about search.

TikTok is often much better than YouTube in this regard. This is because the structure of the app (quickly scrollable videos) requires creators to be much more efficient. I have a problem with my back and I sit in front of a computer all day, so I searched a lot for “back stretches”. TikTok is perfect for this and the result is not the long preambles you get on YouTube. It just shows 30 seconds of video stretch after 30 seconds of video stretch. it rules. The results aren’t always accurate or targeted, but TikTok makes it much easier to flip through your options and find something that works. It’s perfect for DIY content like “how to unclog a sink”.

If search really is TikTok’s long-term focus, the platform needs to change a bit. Currently, creators only get one link on their profile, so there’s a video on their profile that tells them to watch something new. but that link is already dead by the time I looked. Also, TikTok is all about the For You page. This means that people are doing challenges with sounds, and it’s usually all that you see when you open the app. Longer, deeper, evergreen informative content just doesn’t really work in that space, so TikTok also needs to find ways to motivate people to create something that’s easy to search for.

Search also presents TikTok’s new content moderation issues. It’s one thing to influence what users see on their Girlfriend For You page, and another to make sure they see the right information when they’re actively looking for something. According to a recent NewsGuard study, TikTok has a huge amount of misinformation, stating that “as a sample of searches on prominent news topics, nearly 20% of the videos displayed in the search results contained misinformation.” TikTok says it doesn’t allow “harmful misinformation,” but enforcing that rule has proven as difficult as Google and others.

TikTok will never replace Google. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that 10 blue links (with barely any labels at the top, large shopping widgets, and lots of links to Google services) isn’t always the right interface for search. increase. Google is trying to make search more human and give people an easier way to ask questions. Instead, TikTok offers an infinitely watchable library of endless content on almost any subject. I’m not sure I’ll end up making the chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve been looking at for an hour, but it’s really fun to see other people making it.

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