Egregious Google Search Advertisements

The other day I heard about Microsoft Flow and wanted to learn more and see how it compared to my beloved Zapier. So, I did what any normal internet-based life form would do and googled it…

In case that screenshot doesn’t make clear, that’s roughly two entire iPhone screens worth of advertisements before I got to a single organic search result.

Look. No one does search better than Google. While I’d happily pay a monthly fee to search advertisement and tracking free, I’m more than willing to suffer relevant ads in exchange for finding what I’m looking for.

But does this level of ad nauseam (hehe, get it?) really do anyone any good besides Google? As a user it’s completely off-putting and erodes my trust in Google’s search “neutrality” even if the ads are (becoming less and less clearly) labeled as such. And as an advertiser? Do I really want to pay for my ad to be crammed right up against five other competitors?

Deceptive FOMO from OneTravel

Just to prove I’m not a jerk who only calls-out Apple and that all software really is becoming universally awful, here’s a fun one about OneTravel that Ophir Harpaz pointed out:

All of those urgent “XX people are looking at this item!” warnings that litter the web? We all know they’re likely bullshit. Well, she took the time to verify that claim by taking a peek at the underlying JavaScript. And for OneTravel specifically, this FUD is literally a random number between 28 and 45.

So, shoutout to the web developer (nÊe, engineer) who carried out middle management’s instructions to implement this lovely piece of software.

Captchas are getting out of hand

I understand the seriousness of needing to prevent disinformation and bots – especially on social media platforms – but captchas are just getting weird and awful.

From personal experience (because I’m crazy), I do most of my web browsing in Safari with 1Blocker set to completely block all cookies from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. When I need to explicitly use one of those websites, I use Firefox with an appropriate container. Like I said, I’m crazy and it’s not something I would expect normal users to do. But, hey, fuck Facebook and their tracking methods.

That said, here’s the problem I run into. So many other websites now use reCAPTCHA to verify that their users aren’t bots. And because I don’t have any Google cookies in my browser, reCAPTCHA freaks out and will make me solve a minimum of three puzzles each time. Often times they’re so difficult I (a human!) have trouble solving them. And occasionally reCAPTCHA will simply never let me pass through at all.

I’m worried that at some point doing any significant activity on the internet will require having a logged-in Google account with your history attached to it.

And it’s not just the occasional web forum trying to cut down on spam comments. I’ve been prevented from paying businesses money because they added reCAPTCHA to their payment form.

So, this screenshot of a recent reCAPTCHA challenge is patently absurd for the significant percentage of the population with vision impairments.

(image via @DougCollinsUX)

Going even further. Recently, I had to solve a captcha by identifying pictures of palm tress. Ok, fine. But that seems like an incredibly localized and niche question to ask. Does the world population in general all know what a palm tree specifically looks like? The same question goes for when reCAPTCHA asked me to identify American-style police cars.

Is Google really doing an honest effort to combat bots? Or are they just training their machine learning models as much as they can while we’re all still willing to put up with this mess?