Reddit can’t build a better search engine

Every week or twice a week, you will come across a post on HackerNews that Google is dying or Google is awful. There are some valid points to some of their arguments. However, I don’t see Google going anywhere anytime soon.

Yesterday, I came across a post titled, ‘Google search is Dying‘ and the argument in that post was something new. That is, people append the word ‘Reddit’ to the end of the results because Reddit has better answers to questions people are searching than Google search results.

In a way, this argument has a point. Even I have looked for Reddit posts through Google search because I believed that Reddit had the answers that I’m looking for.

However, the argument that Reddit can build a better search than Google is a flawed argument. And that flaw is the same flaw that makes Google results bad. And that flaw is money.

I was too young to use Google when it first got started, but according to many, in the beginning, Google had better or more accurate search results. One reason for this was the fact that most of the sites back then were indie websites, which did not care about SEO and money and created websites for sharing information.

But I think all can agree that the quality of Google results have declined when people started to game the algorithm and create search engine optimized garbage websites. Because more traffic meant more advertising revenue. It’s the same about the Google search results page. After beginning to monetize they started filling their search results page with more and more ads.

Reddit posts are good because the people who create these posts or make comments are doing it to share their knowledge. And there is no financial incentive associated with it. They know that do it to share their knowledge.

This is the same reason why people read Yelp reviews, or Wikipedia articles over food blogs and other websites about a given topic. Because people there create content knowing that they don’t get any financial incentive. (Except in Yelp where restaurant can get more customers, but that is not similar to direct online advertising)

However, once Reddit creates a search engine, and once people get to know that there is an opportunity to game the system and create a financial opportunity, people will abuse that system and we will be back to the place where we are now. SEO stuffed websites.

So how can we fix the system? The best way to fix the system is to prioritize websites that are there to share knowledge, not websites with their primary priority to make ad revenue.

I’m not 100% against advertising, I’d still prefer a targeted ad over a random ad that is unrelated to me. But there should be a balance between the quality of the content, the number of ads, and the amount of targetting.

However, the argument that Reddit can build a better search engine is flawed as Google.

24 responses

  1. Victor fhjkieedguit Avatar
    Victor fhjkieedguit

    Everything is flawed

  2. I think Reddit could do build a better search engine. This is because a search engine is as powerful as its curation strategy. Reddit’s community-driven curation so far worked really well.

    1. True, Reddit search is not good and broken. But the point I’m trying to emphasize is the fact that as soon as Reddit tries to commercialise it’s search it’s going to go down as Google because the underlying flaw in the principal.

    2. John Smith Avatar
      John Smith

      This is so utterly wrong because the only thing Reddit have proven is that “community-driven curation” just doesn’t work at all. Unless carefully selecting the dumbest people on the planet (infamous “redditors”) and weeding out everyone with at least one brain cell was their actual goal. At no circumstance sane people would take a legal advice from /r/legaladvice, believe anyone claiming to be a scientist in /r/science etc etc. Every (default) subreddit is basically a bunch of high schoolers (or mentally challenged adults underdeveloped to the same age) trying to imitate a community dedicated to this or that theme.

      Now I’d commend an author for being spot on on his conslusions but to be honest he is playing a Captain Obvious here. Reddit is already commercialized and full of various shills and bots. The idea that searching on reddit is somehow superior to a usual google search is mostly based on confirmation bias and selective perception.

  3. Mr mestophelies Avatar
    Mr mestophelies

    I think the reason people put Reddit in search query is obvious.

    They want to find an answer,sometimes a specific answer they have read before, and the Reddit search function is God awful. So it’s easier to use google to search Reddit for you. The same goes for finding some SubReddits too.

    Also there will have been a large increase, I think, last year of people doing searches for Reddit due to some big community events. Like WSB and GME and the whole antiwork thing

  4. Google the terms you want + “Reddit” 🙂

    nice post!

  5. You think that there aren’t many independent websites that aren’t SEO stuffed / spam because your view of the Internet is the slice that google shows you – which is SEO optimised sites.

    There are actually still a very large number of good, independent, sites (such as your own), as I have discovered while working on and testing Entfer (

    We will have a number of features that will make it harder to game our system. One of them is giving you the ability to downrank sites, so that even if a site does game the system you will still be able to filter it out with the tap of an arrow.

  6. Search engines have their limitations . Sometimes every one of them fails to deliver what we are looking for. I use to use reddit, google and even previously never heard ones too?. Im also agree with ruky, relevent ads are ok and sometimes ads are helpful than search engines?. Nice post ??

  7. Sooo because someone typed keyword+reddit all of a sudden google is dying now?
    No. People add “reddit” there because reddits’ navigation sucks and would like to let google navigate them to the page they wanted to find.

  8. Anything is possible actually, so I think they can do it if they want.

  9. “I was too young to use Google when it first got started, but according to many, in the beginning, Google had better or more accurate search results.”

    For a while Altavista (using AND, OR and most importantly NEAR) had far better results. It took more than a year before I switched to Google.

    I still sometimes miss the option to search for two words that appear *near* each other.

  10. The trick is finding another monetization structure that actually works, and no one seems to have cracked that problem yet. Nobody wants adverts, and nobody wants to pay for content, but they expect accurate, high quality information and content all the same.

    I really hope we do come up with a solution, as the Internet really has become an awfully polluted place.

    1. That’s exactly the point of this post. And yes until we fix the underlying flaw we won’t be able to create a better system or search engine or make Google better.

  11. Institutions or companies aren’t good or bad itself, it’s humans and the incentive systems behind them.

  12. Hugh Richards Avatar
    Hugh Richards

    => <=
    Somebody get geohot on the job

    1. Jubin Jose Avatar
      Jubin Jose

      He’s a very interesting person. I really enjoyed a live stream from him specifically on this topic:

  13. Why do we assume that Reddit is a search engine? In the same way, I could say that my website’s search form is a search engine as well. Only because some of us use it as a query in Google search, that doesn’t mean we can use it for search.

    The results that we get from Google are not in the same format as in Reddit. Personally, I use Duckduckgo for at least 4 years and I’m pretty happy.

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