The Markup unveiled a new browser extension on Tuesday called Simple Search. Inspired by reporting from their own Adrianne Jeffries and Leon Yin, The Markup’s "Simple Search" aims to clean up your search results and scrub them of the bloat Google's added in recent years.
With Google Search results returning “direct answers” and ads before users get anywhere near an unpaid website listing, using Google has created a walled garden around its products. As a result, the Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the company that hinges on this practice. In the meantime, you can use Simple Search to get rid of the clutter in your results.
How does it work? — Simple Search can be added to Firefox or Chrome, and adds an overlay to your Google or Bing search results. The overlay only shows the top web results for your query, but it gives you the option to exit in case you just want one of Google’s direct answers or a service like Maps. You can also easily toggle the extension on and off.
The bottom of each results page often informs you how many pixels shorter Simple Search’s results are compared to Google’s, and promotes The Markup's investigative journalism (there's no such thing as a free search, after all).
Why do we need this? — While Google doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with what it's doing, it continues to increase its control over how we use the internet. From pushing out travel companies to keeping track of your favorite shows, Google is constantly creating products that undercut the very businesses that either pay it or bend over backward with their content to get a spot on the ever-shrinking first results page.
Even when Google attempted to improve its results earlier this year, it served its advertising business. In adding favicons to search results, Google made it difficult to visually differentiate between ads and unpaid results. Though this design decision was swiftly reversed and we may never know its genuine intentions, the move underscores Google’s ability to lock us into situations where it always comes out on top.