Not just last week, but every week I do a lot of internet searching. Quite often, I am trying to find a definitive answer to a question put to me from a MacFormat reader, an email, or in a comment here on this blog. Although I pride myself in getting valuable hits, and the best answers, this is becoming increasingly difficult, on Google at least, because search engines often fail to discover the most recent and complete information.
I could illustrate this with any of a multitude of examples, but one quite consistent shocker is Google’s response to the search term “how to reset smc 2018 macbook pro”. Any Mac user who has been reasonably attentive over the last couple of weeks should be aware that the Touch Bar models of the MacBook Pro 2018 have a T2 chip, and quite a different method for resetting their SMC. Unfortunately, this seems to have eluded Google’s indexing and search algorithms.
Over two weeks after Apple published details of the new procedure, and I wrote about them here, this is the ordered list of results returned for that search term:
- Apple Support article updated 13 July 2018 with info for Touch Bar models with T2 chip. Success!
- Macworld article 2 May 2018 which doesn’t cover T2 models, nor have any references or links for them. Would be misleading and unhelpful.
- Three videos, dated 17 April 2018, 29 November 2017, and 24 January 2017, all of which are out of date.
- MacTrast article dated 8 February 2017 which doesn’t cover T2 models, nor have any references or links for them. Would be misleading and unhelpful.
- P&T Brothers article, dated 6 April 2018, covering 2017 MacBook Pro model which doesn’t cover T2 models, nor have any references or links for them. Would be misleading and unhelpful.
- The Mac Observer article dated 5 April 2018 which doesn’t cover T2 models, nor have any references or links for them. Would be misleading and unhelpful.
- OSX Daily article dated 24 March 2010 which is hopelessly out of date.
- Another Macworld article dated 16 April 2018 which doesn’t cover T2 models, nor have any references or links for them. Would be misleading and unhelpful.
The second up-to-date account listed by Google appeared on the second page as the fifteenth hit, which was this article here.
To my amazement, even trying to lead Google to the correct answers doesn’t produce any great improvement in its results: adding the giveaway item “t2” to the end of that search term still returns six out of nine misses on the first page: two-thirds of the responses on that first page ignore that part of the search term in their links.
This illustrates how reliant we are on Apple producing and presumably promoting its own documentation. In this case, Apple support documentation came up trumps and Google miraculously ranked it as the first hit. Search for something which doesn’t elicit such immediate success, and you are now likely to be confronted with a succession of misses, many by a long shot.
If I were running a vast corporation founded on a search engine which has now been maturing for over twenty years, and it performed that badly, I would die of shame.
We have got here not just because of Google’s flawed business model, but the corruption which has penetrated most of the internet. Most sites need to generate money, which they do from advertising. The more visitors they get, the more money that they can generate. In order to get more visitors, those sites need to rank highly in Google’s searches, and Google profits the most from the advertising with which those sites assail their visitors. No one here cares whether the user finds the answer that they need.
One potential solution is to provide the search engine vendors with some consumer-oriented performance measures, by which we can judge them, and choose which to use.
I’d like to see some independent search engine benchmarks, perhaps administered and monitored by a consumer organisation or one of the industry’s learned bodies such as IEEE CS or the ACM. Those could provide Google and other search engine providers with targets for continuous improvement, and refocus their attention on delivering a service to their users, rather than continuing to grow their own advertising revenue, and supporting an SEO industry which works to poison search results to their financial benefit.
Internet search should gives us command of whole libraries of up-to-the-moment encyclopaedias, not dupe us with just the ‘yellow pages’.