Google now offers ‘web’ search — and an AI opt-out button

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For some, the new “web” button will be the biggest improvement in years.

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This is not a joke: Google will now let you perform a “web” search. It’s rolling out “web” searches now, and in my early tests on desktop, it’s looking like it could be an incredibly popular change to Google’s search engine.

The optional setting filters out almost all the other blocks of content that Google crams into a search results page, leaving you with links and text — and Google confirms to The Verge that it will block the company’s new AI Overviews as well.

This is the new Web button. You know, for all your Web searches.

This is the new Web button. You know, for all your Web searches.

a:hover]:text-black [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>This is the new Web button. You know, for all your Web searches.
a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

“Isn’t every search a web search? What is Google Search if not the web?” you might rightfully ask.

But independent websites like HouseFresh and Retro Dodo have pointed out how their businesses have gotten “buried deep beneath sponsored posts, Quora advice from 2016, best-of lists from big media sites, and no less than 64 Google Shopping product listings,” in the words of HouseFresh managing editor Gisele Navarro.

Now, with one click, a bunch of those blockers seemingly disappear.

Search for “best home arcade cabinets,” one of Retro Dodo’s bread-and-butter queries, and it’s no longer buried — it appears on page 1. (Drag our image slider to see the difference.)

a:hover]:text-black [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>With and without the “web” filter.

HouseFresh still doesn’t get page 1 billing for “best budget air purifiers” — but it’s higher up, and you’re no longer assaulted by an eye-popping number of Google Shopping results as you scroll:

Normal search on the left, “web” search on the right.

Normal search on the left, “web” search on the right.

a:hover]:text-black [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>Normal search on the left, “web” search on the right.
a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

If you search for Wyze cameras, you’ll now get a hint about their lax security practices on page 2 instead of page 3:

Again, normal on the left, “web” on the right.

Again, normal on the left, “web” on the right.

a:hover]:text-black [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>Again, normal on the left, “web” on the right.
a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshots by Sean Hollister / The Verge

I’m not sure it’s an improvement for every search, partly because Google’s modules can be useful, and partly because the company isn’t giving up on self-promotion just because you press the “web” button. Here, you can see Google still gives itself top billing for “Google AR glasses” either way, and its “Top stories” box is arguably a helpful addition:

I suppose it’s convenient for Google to have zero references to the failed Google Glass on page one, though?

I suppose it’s convenient for Google to have zero references to the failed Google Glass on page one, though?

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Which of these results helps you better learn about the Maui wildfires? I’m genuinely not sure:

Regular “all” search definitely skews more recent.

Regular “all” search definitely skews more recent.

a:hover]:text-black [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>Regular “all” search definitely skews more recent.
a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshots by Sean Hollister / The Verge

And when you ask Google who wrote The Lord of the Rings, is there any reason you wouldn’t want Google’s full knowledge graph at your disposal?

a:hover]:text-black [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>Image slider: drag left to see “Web” results, drag right for original.

Admittedly, it’s an answer that Google isn’t likely to get wrong.

As far as I can tell, the order of Google’s search results seem to be the same regardless of whether you pick “web” or “all.” It doesn’t block links to YouTube videos or Reddit posts or SEO factories… and I still saw (smaller!) sponsored ads from Amazon and Verkada and Wyze push down my search results:

Product searches still fundamentally favor a company to the point that bad news about them gets buried.

Product searches still fundamentally favor a company to the point that bad news about them gets buried.

a:hover]:text-black [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>Product searches still fundamentally favor a company to the point that bad news about them gets buried.
a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

“Web” is just a filter that removes Google’s knowledge panels and featured snippets and Shopping modules — and Google’s new AI Overviews as well, Google spokesperson Ned Adriance confirms to The Verge. “AI Overviews are a feature in Search, just like a knowledge panel or a featured snippet, so they will not appear when someone uses the web filter for a search.”

It doesn’t magically fix some of the issues facing Google’s search engine. But it is a giant opt-out button for people who’ve been aggravated by some of the company’s seemingly self-serving moves, and a way to preserve the spirit of the 10 blue links even as Google’s AI efforts try to leave them behind.

Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Liaison for Search, says he’s been asking for something like this for years:

As a next step, I’d like to see Google promote the button to make it more visible. Right now, the company warns that it may not always appear in the primary carousel on desktop at all — you may need to click “More” first and then select “Web.”

Here’s hoping this all works well on mobile, too; I’m not seeing it on my phone yet.

This post was originally published on The Verge

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