Since they’re old enough to put their elders to shame, Generation Zers have made many things we once loved obsolete.
Take the side haircut, the crying emoji, and skinny jeans; but some of the many relics from the recent past that zoomers have decided – often correctly – that we should leave behind.
But is it time for Google, the number one search engine, to suffer a similar fate and fade away?
For Gen Z, TikTok is the place to turn when you’re looking for answers. Where can you find cute cafes in town? What is the best Italian restaurant in London? What exhibitions are taking place in Paris? How to write a cover letter? How to have a clean break up?
While these may be questions that boomers and millennials would Google and look for on WikiHow or Tripadvisor, Gen Z has been found to seek advice from the same app full of dance and pop trends.
Already in 2021, the web security and performance company Cloudflare reported that the number of searches on its platform had surpassed Google with the video app.
With over three million downloads worldwide and a growing audience, TikTok’s use as a search engine is growing rapidly, to the point where many are wondering if it could eventually take down Google and ending his supremacy for many years.
At the Tech Brainstorming Conference last summer, Google senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan said that the company’s studies found that “something like almost 40 percent of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps. or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram”.
In this case, Raghavan didn’t seem worried about what Gen Z’s habits mean for Google’s future, instead acknowledging that the journey toward gathering information online “in different forms than previously, visually rich forms”.
As new users come of age where they start searching for things online on TikTok and Instagram, Google will have to “create whole new expectations” adopting “whole new technology,” as Raghavan put it, to keep up with the competition from the two social media apps.
There are many advantages to using TikTok as a search engine: up-to-date information delivered quickly (usually in videos of less than a minute); an ever-changing algorithm that you know well; and generally attractive content.
According to several media interviews conducted with users, Gen Z finds information on TikTok to be more personalized – and therefore more “real” and valuable – than a search result on Google.
“The platform’s algorithm is designed to provide users with content they are likely to be interested in, based on their previous interactions,” Abdul Rahim, IT professional and founder and CEO of Software Testing Tips, told Euronews Next.
“The result of this adaptation is a highly engaging and entertaining user experience that keeps users coming back for more. In addition, TikTok is a hub for DIY tutorials, fashion, and beauty tips, and more, making it a great source for users to discover new products, ideas, and trends”.
But these exact same benefits could be seen just as positively. TikTok’s algorithm, by keeping users on the platform as long as possible, makes it harder to leave the app to check information.
The platform, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, does not – so far – impose any penalty for incorrect information on its platform, prioritizing instead the participation and popularity of users.
Personalized search results can make our echo chambers even more intense, and more suffocating.
But while TikTok’s popularity is growing and the app is quickly catching up with Google’s popularity, it seems unlikely that it will completely replace the world’s largest search engine.
“While Gen Z tech users may rely on TikTok for all kinds of searches, it is a step too far to suggest that TikTok will surpass Google as the world’s largest search engine, let alone put Google in league,” said Nick Swan, technology expert and Founder of www.SEOTesting.com, a tool that helps customers increase search traffic from Google.
“It’s true that younger people favor video-based social media platforms and, as a result, savvy social media posters are able to position themselves as ‘micro-influencers’ on platforms like TikTok. How? Offering simple but practical online advice – much like searching for a topic on Google,” added Swan.
“Once viewed as a platform for sharing videos of trending dances, you can now find videos that simplify an arbitrary housing action you’ve never heard of before”.
But Google still has a lot to do, said Hannah Campbell, co-founder and managing director of digital marketing company One Twelve Agency.
“I don’t think it’s possible to completely replace TikTok with Google,” she said.
“As much as TikTok search usage is a powerful changing tide for Gen Z, there are still many generations older than Gen Z who will never follow this trend.
“We should also not forget that Gen Z is also using Google; TikTok is not as good at researching hard information or recommendations specific to a certain topic or geography”.
Google has built a reputation over the past two decades, and is generally considered more reliable than information found on TikTok. The search engine is faster at gathering information as it happens, but TikTok is lagging behind.
In addition, Google is always trying to improve and keep up with the competition.
“It’s wise to avoid thinking of Google as a constant. Although the interface has barely changed since its Beta version in 1998, the technology and algorithms behind the interface are constantly adjusting and updating to the needs of users and advertisers,” said Campbell.
“If, for example, TikTok started to overtake the search because users were bored with too many promotional posts on Google, it is likely that Google will change the algorithm to alleviate this issue,” said he.
“If Google can ensure that its users always feel satisfied that they have learned enough about a topic to help achieve a specific goal after reading the content of the website, especially without having to search again for for other information if possible, Google will be comfortable with it. is still the largest search engine in the world,” said Swan.
Google may try to catch up with TikTok by being a bit more like the video app. In September of last year, Google announced new features that will make searching faster and more visual for users.
The search result we’re used to – 1 in 1,384 pages of black-and-white text and links – could be a thing of the past – like taking selfies from above and confirming which Hogwarts houses to which we belong.
“Google will continue to have the most insight into how people search, understand how they process information and human behavior, and with their updates to create more dynamic results, they will continue to be the single source of information collection from multiple touch points,” said Marina Glavan, Senior Strategist at marketing agency AMV BBDO.
“Until TikTok can act as a one-stop shop for all information, and creators understand user queries as well as Google can, the platform will struggle to completely overtake Google”.