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Google adds ‘Web’ search filter for showing old-school text links as AI rolls out

As Google revamps itself for the AI era, offering AI overviews within its search results, the company is introducing a new way to filter for just text-based links. With the new “Web” filter that appears at the top of the results page, users will be able to filter for text links the way they can today filter for images, video, news or shopping.

The news was announced on Tuesday via a post on X amid the company’s developer conference, Google I/O, where the company introduced a massive change to Google with the news of AI-organized search results and AI overviews in search, among other things.

According to Google, the new “Web” filter will appear either at the top of the results page or as part of the “More” option, depending on your query.

The launch is an admission that sometimes people will want to just surface text-based links to web pages — the classic blue links that today are often of secondary importance as Google either answers the question in its informational Knowledge Panels or, now, through AI experiments.

Notes the Google SearchLiaison X account, “We’ve added this after hearing from some that there are times when they’d prefer to just see links to web pages in their search results, such as if they’re looking for longer-form text documents, using a device with limited internet access, or those who just prefer text-based results shown separately from search features,” the post read. “If you’re in that group, enjoy!”

Google also clarified that on mobile devices, it will default to showing the new “Web” filter alongside the other filters, without requiring users to go to the “More” menu. Meanwhile, on desktop, Google will show the filters that seem most relevant to the search results.

The feature will be rolling out today and tomorrow to global users, said Google.

The news of a “Web” filter will likely cause some debate, particularly among the SEO crowd, which has historically worked to optimize their links to appear on the first page of Google Search results for a certain term. But this sort of SEO manipulation has arguably also caused Google to be much less useful than in the early days, when its PageRank algorithm wasn’t being gamed by search experts.

The move is also a big bet that the future of search won’t necessarily be surfacing links to websites. Rather, the answers a user seeks may be other forms of content, or even AI responses with sources cited for those interested in digging in further. How all these changes will play out across industries that rely on clicks and visitors remains to be seen.

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Read more about Google I/O 2024 on TechCrunch




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