back to article Everyone loves our new desktop web search design so much – the one with ads that look like links – that we're tweaking it, says Google

Google is under fire this week for rolling out a new design for its desktop web search results in which advertisements and normal links look almost the same. It's another example of the internet kingpin seemingly putting its profitability over its usefulness to the rest of us. About an hour or two ago, a spokesperson for …

  1. DJV Silver badge

    I'm giving...

    ...StartPage a try out. So far, it's pleasantly clear of unwanted crap. Hopefully, it will stay that way.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: I'm giving...

      You might want to rethink that, if a comment by Recluse from a related story a couple of days ago is on the ball:

      Startpage tarnished ?

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: I'm giving...

        Oh bugger - but thanks for the link, I hadn't seen that.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge


        I've been using Startpage for ages now. That is not good news for me.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: I'm giving...

      ...StartPage a try out

      Unfortunately, it makes our work proxy completely freak out..

  2. Richard Parkin


    Curiously if you search for ‘debt’ in DuckDuckGo (my usual) the first 2 are ads (though for what I could not say) but in Google ‘debt’ produces no ads until one shows up near the foot of the page (Safari on iOS).

    1. Marjolica

      Re: Debt

      Odd. If I search for 'debt' using DDG (UK) in Firefox (ESR-Devuan) I'm not seeing any obvious ads, even when I disable uBlock Origin. First three are from Citizen's Advice,, Wikipedia.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: Debt

        Yup, me too. Does DDG issue ads? I've forgotten what internet ads look like since I've been using multiple layers of blocking. If I use the web in, say, the library, I often briefly wonder what the hell is going on, then remember that's what the internet always looks like to other people...

      2. Richard Parkin

        Re: Debt

        Curiouser and curiouser :)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We got caught going too far trying to make people accidentally click on links that pay us money, so we'll make a very minor tweak and claim we responded to the outcry.

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: Translation

      And we have no intention to refund advertisers for the mistaken clicks we generated in the mean time. All our customers undersatnd fully the technical challenges, and that we run a monolpoly and exclusion from our service following a complaint would break them.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Comming soon?

    It's bound to happen.... goto Google, type in your search, and the results will be all adds, all the time. Their revenue is more important than us finding what we want in a search.

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: Comming soon?

      We are past that date. Google no longer even accepts urls into the index if they dont have an advertising profile on you personally when you try to add a link. So they can sell you adwords, even if you never once use their search yourself.

      Google index is all google ads, or leads to google ads.

      There may be some exceptions to this for sites first indexed before google openly became evil.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Wouldn't it be Loverly

    A search engine with a, I'm Not Looking to Buy Anything, mode.

    1. Carpet Deal 'em

      Re: Wouldn't it be Loverly

      You're only not looking to buy because you haven't realized you want to yet. Your friends in marketing are only looking to help you learn about yourself!

    2. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: Wouldn't it be Loverly

      IMHO we should have a nationalised search engine, with ads and without ads, against which google should compete fairly by proviging additional services, not by cheating games with its browser.

    3. Zolko Silver badge

      Re: Wouldn't it be Loverly

      try Qwant

    4. Velv

      Re: Wouldn't it be Loverly

      Here's what google can do...

      You can have an ad-free experience when searching, but you must be signed in to google.

      Google can harvest what you search (as they do today) but instead of directly placing ads in the results, they can sell those results to the other ad-flingers who paste every other page you visit with adverts (see <-- left and --> right)

  6. NickJP

    Run Pihole as your DNS server, and any search result that is an ad doesn't resolve and load if clicked on, because googleadservices is consigned to the bit bucket...

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    In the IT industry, the difficulty non-technical folk have in searching Google for help with computer issues is well-known, with a myriad of useless paid-for utilities, ad-laden “driver updaters,” or technical help sites of dubious value competing with genuinely useful information.

    There's nothing unique about IT, computer issues, driver updates or "technical help sites". Search as a whole seems to be a thoroughly poisoned well by now. Paid for ads are only part of the problem. Commercial sites in general have so much material on them that the plain search hits on those can also swamp the factual material being searched for. There needs to be an option to conduct a search that excludes e-commerce sites, estate agents*, etc.

    * Estate agents are a particular problem when searching for anything historical/geographical. For the last few decades builders have been naming developments after any well-known local figure and the resulting property sales have the same effect on search results as over-enthusiastic stree-lighting does on astronomy.

    1. Richard Parkin

      Advanced search

      “ There needs to be an option to conduct a search that excludes e-commerce sites, estate agents*, etc.” You should be able to do that with a ‘saved google advanced search’.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The internerd used to be about cat videos. Now?

      "an option to conduct a search that excludes e-commerce sites, estate agents*, etc."

      Don't forget that huge quantities of websites and web traffic are now centred around "influencers" and other similar low-grade bloggists.

      Some (many? most? almost all?) of them may be adverts in some form of disguise.

      How did we get here?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: The internerd used to be about cat videos. Now?

        How did we get here?

        The usual - human greed and lust for power.

    3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Try looking for

      technical manuals.

      And all you're after is a link to a TNC 620 control version 23111445(which is on their website, but you cant remember the website name..or where they hid it on their website)

      1. paulll

        Re: Try looking for

        The manual thing's a ballache but I gave up on google pretty early on for the abject uselessness of pagerank for anything technical. A search involving, "polyester capacitor," would throw up 400 links to,"xboxtards are loserheads becus the playstation 7 has 3 polystar capacitors in it's hard drive and xbox 867's only have 2,"-type screeds and maybe the odd potentially relevant thrown in there somewhere.

        Maybe it's got better but between that and apparently .75 of the plebs finding they're *regularly* getting duff results, and the, well, evil... why the fuck are people using this utter pile of shite?


    Confusing favicons

    Were they put there by leprechauns?

  9. quxinot

    I want a FF plugin that blocks the entries marked as ads.

    Ditto for ebay and sponsored ads there.

    1. DBH

      Shouldn't be too difficult to write a custom extension for chrome, I did one for myself that removes ads from a handful of sites that I like to visit but need the ads gone to even make sense of them as they're just too intrusive. Just a handful of simple lines of javascript that strip bits of DOM out of the pages, nothing particularly clever

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      uBlock Origin does this, and I assume most other ad blockers.

  10. Chozo

    Curious, hardly a week goes by in the Adsense support forums where some newbie gets their account nuked just prior to payout for pulling this exact same stunt.

  11. poohbear


    Google has far bigger problems that just sneaking in the ads. For a while now, their results have been truly gamed by those high-paid SEO types, and fake sites republishing things like Wikipedia, that Google fails to detect as fake. Often the text presented in the search result has nothing to do with what you get when you go to the site.

    I do have some sympathy for Google here, since they are the prime target for SEO, and accept that them only showing me a handful of pages of the alleged 76,234,456 results is part of their attempt to curb the fake sites, but they need to do a better job in distinguishing the difference between the fake sites and the other genuine ones in those 76 million.

  12. Carpet Deal 'em

    About that caption of the original homepage

    Shirley you mean

    in! 1998!, Google! focused! on! being! the! smartest!, best!-indexed! search! engine!

  13. Irongut

    When I heard people complaining they couldn't tell the ads from the links on Google yesterday I thought "I didn't have that problem earlier" so I searched something to see what they were complaining about. I realised I did have that problem earlier but had subconciously assumed all the links were ads, ignored them and tried other search engines. Funny.

  14. ecofeco Silver badge

    The new design sucks

    See title.

    Fucking UX designers are shit these days. Of course I blame marketing.

  15. ecofeco Silver badge

    Google search has become almost useless

    See title.

    1. SAdams

      Re: Google search has become almost useless

      It is going downhill, but all the other searches seem to have issues too. I always scroll past the adds anyway, so my biggest complaint is AMP which destroys the whole search experience on mobile phones.

      If only Alta Vista had carried on and developed as a feasible alternative. I may switch to DockDuckGo, but its algorithms can be flakey...

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Google search has become almost useless

        Aggregators e.g. dogpile, can be useful as they fire query at a variety of search engines so you typically get a "better" (FSVO better) set of results than if you just used one engine.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We're dedicated to improving the desktop experience for Search

    if in 2020 you're still STUPID ENOUGH to trust google, why the outcry? Just keep eating their shit, as you have been doing for the last, what, 15 years at least.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: We're dedicated to improving the desktop experience for Search

      It's the ones that don't complain that are suspect here and I'm not sure that the terms "trust" or "stupid" are relevant to the users who are complaining. I think they use Google in an attempt to find something. Whether or not they "trust" that all the results will lead to the best choice is another matter. Most of us are quite capable of judging for ourselves and class the problem as a nuisance. We don't expect better from Google.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We're dedicated to improving the desktop experience for Search

        oh, I' pretty sure the key issue here is "trust". Do I trust google to be and do what they claim to be and do? Fuck no, and it's not because I'm being paranoid, it's because I have learnt through experience and observation. So yes, if you've been around for a few years at least, and still believe that google are here to help you, and expect them to help you, and are shocked, shocked I tell you, when they help themselves instead, you're just stupid.

  17. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    >the page rank concept... soon turned out to be vulnerable to manipulation.

    ...and it still is! It's a little harder to learn how to manipulate, now. All the methods I used 20 years ago still work today.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Look before you click

    And I mean check the url preview.

    Not fool proof, but helpful.

  19. Giovani Tapini

    What about the advertisers

    now getting basically the same links as everyone else - I would have thought they would want a bit of prominence or distinction for their money. Both as a consumer and a business making everything look the same is a bit strange...

  20. Milton

    Auto-ignore seems to work

    Like many Reg readers I spend more time than is good for me sitting in front of a screen, and a non-negligible minority of that doing (mostly technical) searches. I use DDG*, only resorting to Google when I suspect I'm missing something (and, of course, never Bing) and I want to ask: doesn't everyone now have a completely automatic mental reflex that hides adverts? I probably "saw" an ad sometime in the past 10 minutes and couldn't tell you what it was trying to advertise. I cannot even remember what colours it used. Isn't the truth that ads are so common, so boring, so poorly made, that the eye and brain almost literally don't even see them?

    I suspect that an independent study of online advertising—one which somehow manages to verify which links are genuinely clicked on, and determines reliably whether a purchase followed—would find that contrary to what vested interests claim (Google, to start with), its effectiveness is pitifully poor; that almost all online advertising spend is wasted.

    As with radio advertising, which is the only thing more vacuously awful than internet ads, the cheapness, abysmal quality and sheer volume of adverts works constantly against their effectiveness.

    Perhaps this multi-multi-billion-dollar industry is based on a vast deception.

    *DuckDuckGo: Why don't they do themselves a huge favour and change the name? It's meaningless, clunky, ugly and sounds like something for children—who knows how many potential users don't even try it, because of its trivially silly monicker? Heck, they could have competition to see who can come up with a better name—maybe based on guessing what the initials stand for ... Diligently Depriving Google?

  21. Stork Silver badge

    Google ads don't work for us

    Three years ago, we ran a campaign for our tourism rental VB and had an ok but not overwhelming response.

    This year, largely a campaign with the best performing ads from then, over 600 Euro spent and not a single enquiry. We are done there.

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