Is this the end of ‘Google it’?

After decades of Google taking the spot for the most popular search engine, Gen Z has now moved on to using social media platforms like TikTok.
TikTok, a social media platform known for its For You page, is now becoming a popular search engine.
TikTok, a social media platform known for its For You page, is now becoming a popular search engine.
Yeju Seol
The switch: why is TikTok becoming a search engine?

“I don’t know, have you tried Googling it?” This sentence, ingrained into modern mainstream society, marked a new era in which answers to any question you could dream of conveniently exist in one single search bar. Google’s release in 1998 made it incredibly easy to find information within seconds, and it soon became the standard for searching for anything online.

Google’s gold standard reputation remains today, but Gen Z, a generation defined by growing up with technology and platforms like Google, has threatened its top spot with the increased usage of TikTok as an alternative search engine. A study done in 2022 concluded that almost 40% of Gen Z prefers to search for and discover information on platforms other than Google, such as TikTok. 

Whether it’s because of a shortened attention span, more relevant results or simply the format of the results, the popular app known for its ‘For You’ page features a search bar that is now being used for other topics unrelated to searching for friends to follow.   

Inspired by Lauren Goode’s WIRED article detailing her experience of only using TikTok as a search engine for a week, WSS staffers Ashlyn Brady ’25 and Ethan Tisdale ’26 have decided to take on the same challenge over winter break. After two weeks of attempting to only use TikTok as a search engine, Brady and Tisdale share their opinions on whether or not TikTok will replace Google in the near future. 

Does TikTok top Google?

Over the past year, I have noticed my usage of TikTok in situations where I would previously use Google has increased, so much so that even the people around me have noticed the increase. While I still primarily use Google when searching for information online, TikTok has become a close second.

I was delighted to know that I was not the only one using TikTok as a search engine; however, I was surprised to find out that so many people are heavily relying on it. Of course, social media platforms have been on the rise for decades, but I was curious to see just how much they could be used for, which is what these two weeks of only using TikTok as a search engine made clear. 


Ashlyn Brady

I was expecting to fit in perfectly with the 40% of Gen Z that prefers to use TikTok instead of Google; however, this challenge showed me that I don’t. I had a lot of success when it came to topics that are already popular on TikTok, like the heatless curls I tried, as well as school-related searches that are common among students across the US, like AP curriculum questions, but I struggled to find more specific information that was arguably more important in the moment. Although I struggled with this challenge, it gave me a new perspective on the future of searching for information online. 

While I think the biggest threat to Google’s search engine is developing Artificial Intelligence programs like ChatGPT, I also think that if TikTok’s search engine capabilities continue to develop, it can count as another threat. We’ve already seen updates that have improved the usage of the TikTok search bar, like the related searches bar that appears when scrolling through videos on the for you page. Updates like this that cater towards an easy, user-friendly search experience while being intertwined with an already popular social media app could put TikTok as the primary option for Gen Z and younger generations to use when searching for information. 

The most important update would be a way to search for more accurate, specific information.  However, as TikTok was started with the intention of purely being a social media platform, I wouldn’t be surprised if it stays that way in the grand scheme of things, allowing Google to remain at the forefront of searching for information online. As it stands right now, I don’t foresee TikTok dethroning Google soon, but the platform could still see a significant increase in users using its search bar.

Whose search bar is better?

Before the experiment, I would use TikTok every once in a while, but when I would use it, I would mostly just be scrolling through the For You Page; I never really used it as a search engine before this experiment. Before doing the experiment, I came in pretty skeptical. I mean, TikTok being used as a search engine did seem pretty absurd to me; this is mainly due to me viewing it as an app just for entertainment and not an app where someone would be getting information from.

Ethan Tisdale

I thought TikTok worked generally well during the experiment, but I noticed that TikTok isn’t the best for every kind of search. It’s great for finding things like recommendations or how-to videos, like how, during the experiment, I found a cookie recipe that turned out great. However, TikTok falls short when you need current, specific facts, like when I wanted to check what the weather was like in Iowa City that day. I couldn’t find the information on TikTok, but Google gave me the answer right away. TikTok can be helpful when searching for some things, but it’s not as reliable as search engines like Google for quick, accurate information.

Do I think TikTok will overtake Google as the top search engine? Probably not. While a lot of Gen Z  like to search with TikTok, and it can be great for certain things, it’s missing some key features that you need in a ‘good’ search engine. On TikTok, it’s hard to find specific details, like the weather forecast or the date of a particular event, and finding things like these is a key part of any search engine. So, most likely, TikTok will not overtake Google because, at the end of the day, that is not what TikTok was made for.

Leave a Comment
Donate to West Side Story
$1385
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of West High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase Scholarship Yearbooks, newsroom equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
Donate to West Side Story
$1385
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All West Side Story Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *