Google puts an end to continuous scroll

Meghan McCarty Carino Jun 26, 2024
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Google says getting rid of endless scroll will deliver faster results. Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images

Google puts an end to continuous scroll

Meghan McCarty Carino Jun 26, 2024
Heard on:
Google says getting rid of endless scroll will deliver faster results. Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Starting Wednesday, Google will begin removing the “continuous scroll feature” whereby search results go on essentially forever, without you having to click through to the next page. The company says this move will deliver faster results. It’s the latest in a string of changes to the world’s most dominant search engine.

There is a practical reason for Google to make this change, said Chirag Shah, a professor of information science at the University of Washington: Most users never get past the first results.

But he said the reversal fits with a bigger shift underway at the search giant.

“It’s all about the way you influence user behavior,” he said.

When you provide all the links, he said, it’s an invitation to click away all over the internet. Shrink that list down, and you narrow the users’ focus.

“And we know that the extreme version of this is, ‘Forget about the list of results, I’m giving you one answer,'” he said.

One answer, generated by artificial intelligence. 

Last month Google rolled out what it calls “AI Overviews” as it fends off competition from upstarts like ChatGPT.

A large language model now summarizes the relevant information contained in top links and displays it with the results.

“This is a great reset,” said Daniel Newman, a tech analyst at Futurum Group. He said generative AI is revolutionizing the way we interact with content on the internet.

“Will we even call it search? it’s now our interactive personal digital bot assistant,” he said.

Great for people looking for a quick answer, not so great for sites that rely on clicks for monetization, said Garrett Johnson, a professor of digital marketing at Boston University.

“Definitely content creators should be very alarmed by the increasing pressures on their business,” he said.

He said it could also challenge companies that sell digital advertising, like Google.

And it’s not clear yet how revenue from AI tools, which require much more computing power and electricity, will make up the difference, said analyst Charlie Miner at Third Bridge.

“This is a much lower margin product. As we sit here today, the initial estimations were it can be up to five times more expensive to run an AI search,” he said.

He said Google seems to be making a play to hold on to users with flashy AI — and figure out how to monetize them later.

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