Google Is High On AI But Will It Bite The Publisher Hands That Feed It?

hero ai search
Most people that enter a query into a search engine want to find a website with content authored by humans. This content is much more likely to be both relevant and coherent, in comparison to something computer-generated. Take, for example, one of our graphics card reviews. We write carefully-reasoned analysis of the results that we find, while data base comparison sites simply throw numbers into a database and making naive comparisons. You won't find the kind of expert analysis that HotHardware provides in an algorithmically-generated site.

That goes for AI, too, by the way, and if you've experienced Google's new AI-powered search summary feature—known as "Search Generative Experience"—you probably agree. While the feature can sometimes give a quick answer to simple questions, for more complex queries it's very likely to misunderstand the context or simply give you misinformation altogether. That's not the worst part of Google's AI search summary feature, though. The worst part is that the information is scraped directly from sites like ours with little in the way of credit given, with links that aren't prominent enough to drive traffic back to the publisher's site.

playstation 5 ai overview
AI overviews like this steal views from content providers.

Like the rest of Silicon Valley, Google is very excited about AI right now. At the company's I/O 2024 keynote last Tuesday, it repeatedly uttered the slogan "let Google do the Googling for you." The idea that Google's chasing is that of the persistent digital assistant, a computerized intelligence that will immediately provide you with whatever information you need for anything you'd like to do. Comparisons to Star Trek abound, but the ship's computer has to have information to pull from, and that's where publisher sites like HH come in.

If you're smart, you've probably already figured out the issue here. Most sites survive off ad revenue, and a lot of that comes to us by way of people who find that content via Google search. If someone gets an instant answer from an AI search summary, that's great for them, but it doesn't do anything for the publisher. In Google's defense, it's true that users can click on a "More" arrow to see the sources of the summary, but how many people will even do that, much less the next step of actually clicking on the source?

cant be turned off
Even more frustrating is that there is no official way to disable these AI-generated summaries. Google has locked multiple threads on its support forums from people complaining about the forced "Search Generative Experience," while in one thread a "Platinum Product Expert" admitted that they simply can't be turned off, by design. You can work around them if you're tired of seeing them, though.

edit site search

There are a couple of ways to go about this. If you use a Chrome-derived browser, you can head to the Chrome Web Store and grab an extension called "Hide AI Overviews." There's an even better option that will work in almost any browser, though. Head to your browser's search settings and add a new entry (this is done under "Site search" in Chrome.) Call it "Google Web", and put this in for the URL: {google:baseURL}/search?udm=14&q=%s

playstation 5 cds web
The Web view is much more old-school.

Then, make "Google Web" your default search engine, and now, search queries from the address bar will use Google's new "Web" view. This mode strips away AI overviews, "Top Stories", and shopping listings to present you only results from the web for your search. We appreciate that Google has added this function, although we wonder how long it will hang around, considering how much of Google's own search cruft it scrapes away.

Ultimately there's probably going to have to be a better solution than this, though. Some experts believe that large language models are already feeling the effects of being trained on content that was itself AI-generated, but Microsoft is also all-in on AI summaries with its Copilot feature. Ultimately if there's no money to be made in research, reporting and publishing, eventually there won't be human-generated content to scrape for AI summaries. And we're pretty sure that's not the kind of internet people want.
Tags:  Google, AI, google search