I don't have a lot to say, but this is my little bit.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Why is search so terrible?

My career doesn't overlap very much with the people who code search engines, but I'm bewildered at how they work. Today I'm looking for flight fare alerts. I know for sure there are a whole bunch of good sites for that but search engines are completely incapable of finding and listing those sites.

Consider my search results here. The second link is the one I want: Kayak fare alerts. Perfect. This is the link but when I click it, the page I go to is not Kayak fare alerts as promised, it's just... Kayak or whatever. The result says the page title is "Kayak Fare Alerts" but the actual page isn't that at all.

Listen, how the hell does that happen. Really. How is a search engine showing straight up false results? Don't these sites have robots that check links? I'm pretty sure they do, which means the search engine must be wrong about the page because it was fooled. It must be that the process of a page entering the search engine index allows the owner of the page to lie to the engine, claiming a page is one thing when really it is something else.

And why would it be written like that? Why not have your robot actually visit real links and see what they actually contain? What is the counter-argument to providing customers with accurate search results -- why isn't that incentivized by the market? Why not display the same page title in your search results that you see when you visit the page? Isn't that the obvious way for it to work? Why accept lies and manipulation from pagemakers?

The image is from Yahoo but Google is the same and Bing is the same. All three show Kayak Fare Alerts but clicking it takes you to a page which is not Fare Alerts. So all three have the same basic bug, all three accept lies, all three pass lies on to its users. The result is the internet just doesn't have search anymore, and hasn't for a decade or so. For almost twenty years from 1998 to maybe 2015 we could search for things, it was fast and easy. You can't search the internet anymore; as far as I know, there are no services which turn the text you search for into matching search results.

The Cheapflights link is the same: promises alerts, the page is not for alerts. I didn't try the others, why would I, I assume all the results are lies. I don't like being lied to.

If anyone knows of a search engine which returns only results containing all search terms where all results represent the pages as they exist, let me know.

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