What’s it really like using TikTok for Search instead of Google?

Patrick Devaney
Jan 29, 2023
Updated • Jan 30, 2023

There has been a lot of hype recently around ChatGPT including whether it is a threat to Google’s dominance of internet search. The idea is that the richness of the responses you get from ChatGPT go above and beyond that which you get from Google searches and some developers have even gone so far as to create plugins that prompt ChatGPT to respond to every Google Search you make.

However, the ChatGPT hype distracts from another worrying trend for Google that was becoming apparent long before OpenAI made ChatGPT available to the public at the end of November last year. More and more people are using TikTok for search instead of Google and Google Maps. With that in mind, we thought we’d look into this trend a little more and even give it a go ourselves. Let’s check it out.

Google on the ropes?

A recent feature from Wired claims that Google, the world’s dominant search engine, is in "code red" mode because of several threats to its internet dominance. The threats, which we’ve already outlined, have led to the company deploying resources and calling in big hitters like its cofounders. In short, the company is rattled.


Interestingly, one of the main threats is TikTok, which is a video app filled with dancing teens, cat memes, food hacks, and cringe-inducing stunts. Accordingly, it is easy to overlook it as a serious tool but these days Generation Z is increasingly using TikTok as a search engine, as well as for frivolous fun. In fact, The New York Times was reporting on this trend last September, meaning it isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.

Google has been noticing TikTok's encroachment for a while now too. As as well as the more traditional image and video search results, other responsive actions include the likes of YouTube Shorts, introduced in 2020. which shares vertical videos that are less than a minute long.

Google has described TikTok as a new way of consuming and creating the internet and a potential threat to its search engine with one senior vice president of search at Google claiming as many as 40% of young internet users are regularly turning to TikTok or Instagram for search instead of Google Maps or Search. This was also backed up recently when Cloudflare reported that Tiktok.com had overtaken Google as the world’s most visited web domain.

Modern trends

Increasingly, the internet is becoming more visual and more engaging, which is a core reason behind TikTok’s success. It has a massive user base of content creators that understand key creative elements for producing short, entertaining. and engaging videos. Many of these users have been making content specifically with search in mind and, for example, it is an excellent tool for finding recipes.

Furthermore, TikTok's algorithm personalizes the videos coming up in your feed based on the interactions you make with the content you are viewing, which some users feel creates a sense that real people on the app are synthesizing and delivering information, rather than faceless websites. Also, more broadly, the rise of TikTok as a discovery tool is part of a broader transformation in digital search, where people are turning to platforms like Amazon, Instagram, and Snap Maps to find information.

What are the issues?

After using TikTok as a search engine for a few days there are some issues that stand in the way of TikTok’s charge to become the new top dog in internet search if, in fact, that is what it is even trying to do. The first issue actually relates to that previous statement. TikTok is not good at helping you get to other parts of the internet. In fact, its whole deal sort of revolves around keeping you on the app. This limits the utility of the responses you can get for a whole variety of search terms. For example, if you are looking for a particular website, TikTok isn’t going to help you there.

Also, as TikTok's algorithm tends to try and keep you on the app it makes it harder for you to turn to additional sources to fact-check searches, which is a concern for the legitimacy of the information you are finding on the app. In an age of rampant disinformation and fake news, this raises serious concerns that more people will stumble upon misinformation and disinformation on TikTok, particularly as the platform has struggled with moderating misleading content in the past

Another issue that pops up that affects even the types of searches that TikTok is good at answering is the format of the answers. One of the trends underlying Gen Z’s move towards TikTok relates to the speed with which they can assimilate information through videos compared to having to engage with the websites or snippets that Google serves them up. But when it comes to using the information speed isn’t necessarily an ally. Take recipes for example. Sure, the videos look great and some of them even have the ingredients and steps written down, but actually making that cake is going to be a lot harder using a TikTok recipe than it is using one you’ve found on a website.

In conclusion, TikTok has become a popular alternative to Google for search among Generation Z, due to its visual and engaging platform and personalized algorithm. However, there are issues that stand in the way of TikTok becoming the top dog in internet search. For one, TikTok is not good at helping users navigate to other parts of the internet and tends to keep users on the app, limiting the utility of the responses obtained from searches. Additionally, the lack of fact-checking options on TikTok raises concerns about the legitimacy of the information found on the app. Furthermore, the format of the answers on TikTok, although fast, may not be as useful as traditional websites or snippets provided by Google. Overall, while TikTok is a popular alternative for search, its limitations may prevent it from fully replacing Google as the dominant search engine. At least for old fogeys like me anyway.

If you thought that was interesting, why not read about ChatGPT and the threat it poses to Google.

Article Name
What’s it really like using TikTok for Search instead of Google?
More and more younger people are turning to TikTok for searches on the internet, but what it is it really like to use TikTok for search instead of Google?
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. anonymous said on January 30, 2023 at 3:33 pm

    TikTok is malware connected to the People’s Republic of China. https://en.wikipedia(DOT)org/wiki/Tiktok?useskin=vector#User_privacy_concerns

    BTW, I’ve seen TikTok analytics integrated into a number of well-known websites lately (mostly mobile carrier websites), which is alarming. Fortunately NoScript blocks it by default.

  2. Anonymous said on January 30, 2023 at 11:45 pm

    Hopefully TikTok and all the other copycat sites are banned soon.

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