Over 8,000 subreddits have gone dark to protest Reddit’s upcoming API changes, and it’s shown me just how much I rely on Reddit to find useful, human-sounding information in my Google search results.
With Google’s generally poor search results nowadays, appending “reddit” has long been the default way I search for almost anything (and no, I’m not ready to get my info from an AI chatbot, either). But given the sheer volume of subreddits that are currently unavailable — including some of the most-subscribed subreddits — clicking through many Reddit links in search results takes me to a message saying the subreddit is private.
And even if you don’t rely on the Reddit trick like I do, Reddit links often show up at the top of search results anyway, meaning that many people who don’t regularly use the platform have probably found some useful information on the site.
In Tears of the Kingdom, for example, I’m currently on the hunt for a specific piece of armor, but when I searched for tips about it last night, I found that r/TOTK is private. I’ve been having some issues with a pocket door in my home, but I can’t read a promising r/DIY post because I can’t access the community. I’ve been meaning to find some new good music, but r/music and r/spotify went dark.
Sure, Google can provide me answers for any one of those needs. Other sites have great guides for Tears of the Kingdom. Google surfaced some potentially-useful videos for my pocket door problem (on YouTube, of course). And searching “best new music” brought up many lists I could look through.
But none of those have the conversational and community elements that makes Reddit so dang useful. I like perusing the comments below a post to see other recommendations, points of view, and other links to relevant resources, and then seeing other people discuss the merits of those additions to the thread.
There’s often a wealth of information all in one place, and since the best stuff is generally upvoted to the top, I can put trust in what bubbles up based on the community’s response. However, now that many subreddits are planning to stay dark indefinitely, we might be dealing with largely useless links for a lot longer than expected.
Granted, the Reddit trick for Google isn’t completely broken. Many subreddits are functioning like normal, so you might have stumbled upon r/Games when looking for information on Starfield. Some switched to a more restricted format that lets you still read posts, like r/personalfinance. But in my day-to-day internet usage, I’m finding out just how often I used Google to search for things on Reddit, and until something changes, the Reddit trick might not be very useful for a while.