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For many of us, it is almost impossible to imagine a time when Google did not exist. How did people ever possibly find stuff on the internet without the help of Google? But new signs are emerging that the young people of Generation Z using the internet today are no longer relying on Google to help them find information online. Instead, they are turning to TikTok and Instagram for search results. At some point, does that imply older people using Google to find information online are going to be viewed as antiquated and out-of-date?
The visual web and Google
Really, this makes more sense than it might on the surface when you consider that the internet has become a lot more visual over the past decade. When the internet first launched, it was basically a giant text database and search engines were useful in helping to search all that data. Remember when websites included handy little “site maps” to help search engines find the right stuff? Or when we talked about “spiders” crawling the web for info?
Well, those days are long over. Just consider all the photo and video content being created on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Or all the video content being created on platforms like YouTube. It’s no longer the case that the answer to a question like, “Where should I go for lunch today?” Is best answered with a search of text-based resources, such as a blog entry listing “the Top 10 restaurants in Philadelphia.” Instead, wouldn’t you want to know where the top influencers on Instagram are going? And what they are recommending? The place to find this content is on TikTok and Instagram, so it’s no wonder young people are turning to TikTok and Instagram for answers.
Can Google regain its mojo?
Of course, it’s only natural to ask whether Google can ever reclaim its search mojo with Generation Z. After all, Google is part of a huge sprawling parent company (Alphabet) and has plenty of resources at its beck and call. YouTube, for example, is part of the Google family, so it makes sense that Google can still retain its market-leading position in the area of video search.
And it also makes sense that Google can partner with makers of Android phones on new types of search experiences. For example, one new innovation from Google will enable users to pan their phone cameras over a particular area and then ask a question. For example, they might ask, “What’s the best place to eat near me?” Google would then combine basic search data gleaned from spidering the web with specific information accessed from a user’s camera and Google Maps. You could take this one step further by combining Google search functionality into just about any type of wearable tech, such as a smart watch.
The future of Google
What’s interesting about this sea change in user behavior is that Google is admitting it themselves. Google has done its own internal research and determined that as much as 40% of all searches from members of Generation Z are flowing through TikTok and Instagram. So Google is certainly not putting its head in the sand and ignoring it. At one time, we thought that TikTok would only disrupt Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Now we know that it might just end up disrupting Google as well.