Google Perspectives: the new search feature helps you find human information online

You know the Reddit trick, right? The one where, when you’re searching Google and you want an actual human perspective on which headphones to buy / where to go in Buenos Aires / how many crayons your kid can eat before they get sick, the best thing to do is add “reddit” to the end of your search results? When you do that, you get to skip past the morass of SEO-optimized nonsense websites and find actual human people talking about their actual human experiences.

Well, Google has figured this out, too. So it’s launching a new section of its search results page, called “Perspectives,” that is designed specifically for this behavior. It aims to make it easy to find takes from individual people on subjects all over the web. It’s an expansion of work Google has been doing for a while, now front and center all over search.

Perspectives first appeared as a carousel in search results, but now it’s even more important in the UI. When it rolls out — ”in the coming weeks,” whatever that means — you’ll see a new section at the top of your search results, mingled with News and Images and Shopping. Tap on Perspectives and you’ll be dropped into a feed that looks more like Pinterest than a typical set of Google results. It’ll feature videos from YouTube, comments from Reddit and Stack Overflow and other community-first sites, posts from personal blogs, and other things Google’s ranking systems deem to be the actual perspectives of actual humans.

The Perspectives feed is part of a broader push within Google’s search team to make search work better for users who aren’t just looking for a simple answer to a simple question. “We’re finding that often our users, particularly some of our younger users, want to hear from other people,” says Liz Reid, the VP of Search at Google. “They don’t just want to hear from institutions or big brands. So how do we make that easy for people to access?” 

This push seems to get more important every day, as large language models (including the ones created by Google) threaten to fill the internet with AI-generated garbage. Back in August of 2022, even before the ChatGPT craze started, Google announced new changes to its ranking systems, called the “helpful content update,” that tried to downrank content that was unoriginal or unhelpful. More recently, Google has started to measure its search quality in part on whether the content in question comes from someone with genuine knowledge of the subject. “There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has first-hand life experience on the topic at hand,” the ranking guidelines now say.

Deciding what counts as “experience” or a “perspective” is hard work, though. A Reddit comment is most likely the opinion of a single person. But is a YouTube video? What about when that video is made by a large team or a brand? Are opinion writers in newspapers eligible to be in Perspectives? Reid acknowledges that this is tricky but says she’s happy to err on the side of the obviously human. That probably means more forum posts and vlogs and fewer highly produced articles and videos. That’s okay. People want to find other people online, and Google is going to try and help them do so.

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