🌐 The rise of AI assistants may disrupt the internet and Google’s business model.
- 🤖 As AI assistants become more powerful, users may rely less on websites for information.
- 💰 This could hurt Google’s business model, which is based on advertising revenue from websites.
💰 Is Google having its Kodak moment?
- 📸 Kodak invented the digital camera, but failed to embrace it and was eventually left behind.
- 💰 Google may be in a similar situation with AI, as its new search engine could threaten its current business model.
📃 What is the future of websites?
- ❓ It is unclear who will build websites in the future if AI assistants become more popular.
- 💰 The industry will need to find a new monetization model to support website creation.
A quick history of the internet to understand where we are today. For the purpose of this article, the focus is more around organic evolution and understanding monetization opportunities.
The Changing Dynamics of Online Content Creation
The internet, in its broader context, functions as a series of queries. When it comes to search queries, we can categorize them into three primary buckets, encompassing the vast majority of searches.
The Three Faces of Search Queries
The Three Faces of Search Queries
- Navigational Queries: Historically guiding users to physical locations and addresses, navigational queries stand on the cusp of transformation. People continue to seek information about new local businesses or the quickest route to the gas station.
- Informational Queries: Ranging from stock prices and football scores to news updates, informational queries drive the demand for instantaneous knowledge.
- Complex Queries: The pulse of internet monetization resides in the complexity of queries—shopping, product comparisons, and research. However, the prevalent SEO-centric content creation paradigm raises crucial questions about the sustainability of this model.
While the first two categories align easily with conventional search engines, the overarching logic of the internet is decidedly first-come, first-serve. If you launch a website today featuring sports information or acting as a yellow pages directory, chances are you’ll struggle to attract visitors. This information is already consolidated in the hands of media giants, making it difficult, to say the least, to compete with well-established, mature industries.
For the third category, this is where most websites that are newly created will fall into. This is what the majority of ads are on the internet for, and this is where SEO truly shines.
For example, all the websites that show “best 10 speakers of 2023” or “we’ve tested this so you don’t have to” are all affiliate marketing channels. If you make it to the first page of Google, you will be rewarded handsomely.
The SEO Curse and Its Impact
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a practice that has gradually reshaped the internet’s landscape, has been dubbed by The Verge as “the practice that seems to have successfully destroyed the illusion that the internet was ever about anything other than selling stuff.” With around 99,000 Google searches processed every second, the pursuit of higher search rankings has evolved into a lucrative yet contentious business.
The Verge’s analogy of SEO as the Wizard of Oz projecting authority to manipulate search results sheds light on the occasionally insidious nature of the practice. The objective is clear: tell the algorithm what it wants to hear, secure a prime spot in search results, and often present users with targeted advertising. The consequences? Googling anything can feel like a journey through a landscape crafted more for selling than informing.
Link to The Verge Article: The People Who Ruined the Internet
And if you’ve felt the internet is getting worse, well you’re not alone.
You’re not imagining it, Google search results are getting worse – check out this article from Gizmodo going into details why and how.
This sets the stage for unraveling the intricate dynamic between ads, websites, and users—an exploration in understanding the incentives behind website creation.
Dynamic Between Ads, Websites, and Users
The heartbeat of the internet lies in the interplay between ads, websites, and users. In a landscape dominated by SEO and monetization strategies, the incentive to create websites has often been driven by the promise of ad revenue and online visibility.
The Incentive Structure
In the current internet monetization paradigm, websites are not merely born out of passion or a desire to share knowledge; they exist to claim a slice of the digital marketplace. E-commerce sites aim to sell products, how-to websites trade knowledge, and affiliate marketing sites strive for product reviews. The common thread? Everyone vies for a piece of the ad revenue pie.
Consider the sheer scale of Google’s influence. About 99,000 search queries processed every second result in 8.5 billion searches daily and a staggering 2 trillion searches annually. In this vast digital terrain, where the majority of users rarely venture beyond the first page of search results, the competition for visibility is fierce.
The SEO Predicament
Enter the world of SEO, a practice that, while essential for online visibility, has become a double-edged sword. The Verge’s scathing critique highlights the impact of SEO on the user experience. Googling anything can feel like navigating through a marketplace, with results tailored not just for relevance but for commercial interests.
As the internet landscape becomes saturated with SEO-driven content, the original essence of the web—information sharing and community building—can feel overshadowed. The illusion that the internet was once a space for genuine connection and information exchange has, for many, faded away.
Is Google having its Kodak moment?
Amidst this evolving digital terrain, the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) of the internet are poised for a transformation.
Herein lies the paradox—Generative AIs, such as ChatGPT, are trained on user-generated content (Web2.0). For an AI to be efficient and useful in replacing search engines, it needs to crawl internet pages just like search engines do today. If you ask it to “help me plan a trip to Mexico” or “I’m not sure what type of vacuum can help me clean my carpet,” it will search the websites that people have already created to monetize in the current system.
When the AI returns the search results, much like Bing does today, it references the answers—directing you to the page where it found the information (if it did). However, the challenge lies in the fact that all revenue—from affiliate marketing, ads, or other monetization sources (subscriptions, newsletters, etc.)—only works if you visit that website. If Bing provides you with the information, that website receives no revenue.
Every technology follows a similar path to adoption (check out Crossing the Chasm for more details). Early adopters are initially excited to try new things, but technology is often expensive at this stage and might still be in beta. Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana fall into this category, suitable for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). However, they are still tied to a product, creating barriers for those who can’t afford a smartphone, lack internet access, or struggle with impeccable English diction.
But as the technology evolves, it becomes cheaper and easier to use. If Google moves everyone to their new Gemini AI search engine in a few years time – the whole dynamic of actually having websites to crawl for information, to charge companies for sponsored links and have an entire industry dedicated to outsmart your competitors – goes out the window.
But maybe that’s Google’s Kodak moment – Kodak invented the digital camera but since their company had such a huge market share of the film market, they decided to park the invention until years later when the entire industry changed overnight and they were left behind.
Google might need time to understand how taking the leap forward in getting the entire internet on its AI search engine will actually disrupt the very business model that they built their entire revenue stream on.
Will Google or can Google change the paradigm and invent a new monetization system where website builders, SEO managers can still earn revenue, when their websites get zero visitors all together? Will the future internet be just the already established websites and e commerce?
The rise of AI assistants and the changing landscape of search queries pose challenges to the traditional incentives for website creation. The intricate dynamic between ads, websites, and users is at a crossroads – who will build websites in the future becomes a serious question.
Ok, but the industry will find a solution – you might think. It’s obvious that they will, willingly or not. Is this one of the disruptions AI promises, besides labor replacement? Well if you look at what the entire industry between content creators, platforms, ad revenue and the ecosystem that lives between them – we’re looking at around $1.1 trillion that will be disrupted one way or another. More in Part 2.
This article was also published in www.thereach.ai, check out the website and register for the newsletter if you want interesting news about AI.