I often take a back seat for months and then post like crazy for a few hours but this time I wanted to share a few observations as a user and maybe the wider implications from how I am seeing usage from friends and family etc.
I think it is as a response to the "google is broken" posts that got me thinking.
Firstly, my points are that I think Google is very much broken for a lot of people - ironically not as much for webmasters.
Basically I used google as a user a few weeks ago trying to help my daughter with a school project.
I have to say it was so difficult to get any sites at all with info on the topics, no matter the query it was the same sites (including wiki) and after the first 3 or 4 the relevance was shocking as my query term had been expanded and the rest was irrelevant.
I found the problem when my daughter said - "dad, I can't find anything" - and I laughed and said "I told you to search for XYZ and things relating to that, surely you can find something".
But when I went to her computer, you know what - we couldn't find absolutely any relevant results apart from the same top 3 (including wiki) and a school website. Apart from that it was a bleak landscape - and this for the details of a major time period in UK history.
So on the basis of that I have worked through many queries since and observed how my friends use the Internet and Google etc.
You know what - Google did not give me the results I expected for almost all queries - it was fantastic at my code queries (but almost always was the same 3 sites) - in fact the good queries led me to 5 unique sites over a 3 week period.
Google did not give good queries for non-tech stuff and I realised that my friends used it on mobile more and almost always when we were searching it ended with them clicking sponsored listings or asking other friends for ideas.
Google is actually broken.
I mean that in the modern way of using the web it is the equivalent of Alta Vista - it is not the best source of information.
In the post-Google world it is now social that makes the recommendations for anything - and I mean, people turning to other people in the room and asking "where did you get that cheap case of wine?"
Because Google can't answer commercial questions - and it is now so far of answering information questions that I have no advice to give to my daughter for her to be able to find the info on Google.
What we need is a clear "info" search engine by vertical that gives purely resources.
And Google scholar is NOT the answer - for the first time this cropped up at the top of my results for a query about alcohol consumption for research I am doing - however it is 10 years out of date and not relevant, date based stuff is not valid by inserting these results.
All in all Google is really poor for a lot of my queries, my childrens queries and my friends queries.
That is why a lot of them don't use Google anymore - and I won't be at all.