Could Google be using Reddit to revive an ancient, failed project — 60,000+ Redditors may well be mTurk’ing for Google Answers 2.0

The landing page of Google Answers
(Image credit: Google Answers)

18 years ago, Google shut down Google Answers, a service that allowed anyone to ask a question to freelancers, known as Google Answers Researchers (GAR), for a fee. Launched in April 2002, it competed against the free-to-use Yahoo! Answers. The answers fed directly into Google’s own index (they’d appear in Google Search results page) and offered an interesting alternative to the existing knowledge base back then.

Fast forward to 2024 and Reddit, a website that offers something similar to Google Answers (albeit in an expanded form), just announced its IPO as well as a deal to pocket $60 million in annual fees from Google to allow the latter from training its AI on existing Reddit content, content that is curated and maintained by an army of more than 60,000 volunteers, the Redditors.

They are the key to Reddit’s sustained success, dealing with spam accounts (and spam content) and maintaining a modicum of consistency. Redditors are in effect manually doing what an algorithm may have done, reminding me of mTurk, the little known crowdsourcing marketplace owned by Amazon, that “allowed businesses and individuals to outsource their processes and jobs”.

Redditors keep the data cleaner for free and make it better by using their own experience (and time), something akin to the open source community that maintain source code in applications that powers most of the internet as we know it.

Reddit, or the front page of the internet as it is also known, thrives on its user generated content, produced by a staggering 73 million daily active users. The company said in its IPO filling that it had more than one billion cumulative posts, spread over more than 100,000 active communities.

More importantly for us at Future (and many other publishers), a recent Google algorithm change saw Reddit’s Visibility Index surge, making it one of the most visible domains in Google Search (US), according to SEO tool Sistrix.


“In terms of Google Search potential in the US, is almost as big as” wrote Sistrix's Steve Paine, last week. And that’s because Reddit has an estimated 11 million daily Google search clicks, all of which represent search intent and may turn Reddit into a formidable rival to more established players.

By ranking higher in SERP (search engine results page), Reddit is likely to grow in size, attracting more new members. Increasing in size would mean new topics and - hopefully - better answers, all with Google’s apparent blessing. But to paraphrase Stan Lee, “with great power comes great responsibility” and this is where cracks have started to appear.

Not everyone is liking Reddit’s “businessification”. “Reddit warned us that its users were a risk factor, and boy do they sound excited about shorting its stock” quipped Elizabeth Lopatto from The Verge in what could be interpreted as a warning shot to Reddit’s owners.

Then there’s Google. Reddit has pushed a lot of sites off lucrative SERP positions and has caused growing frustration amongst SEO professionals like Glen Allsopp or Lily Ray because of an expanding spam issue. In a research piece published last week, Allsopp pointed out that “the ‘Discussions and Forums’ SERP feature was present in 77% of searches, and Reddit was present in 97.5% of those. What I haven’t yet told you is that 51% of Reddit’s top-ranking threads currently have spam as a top comment.

To make things even more complicated, Reddit also appears on its own in SERPs, usually with a cluster of links (rather than just one link like most competitors). These links are chosen by Google based on unknown factors, other than recency, which means that some results are from 2022, even for highly competitive terms.

Where will it end? The commenting system on Google Answers was used (and abused) by the SEO community and may have contributed to the demise of the service (back then, Google only said that they considered many factors in reaching this decision). AI and the intervention of state actors could make it even more difficult for Redditors to moderate and ironically, Google’s Reddit move could end up hurting the online ecosystem more than AI-produced content.

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Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.