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Are We Losing Interest in Computers?

By - Source: The Atlantic | B 60 comments

Google usually does not reveal too much detail of its search traffic, but when it does, there may be some interesting implications of user behavior.

As part of its financial website, Google allows users to compare search traffic of aggregated industries against the developing price of stock. The search traffic is normalized to the value of 1.0 and the search volume that occurred on January 1, 2004. Don't expect any dramatic revelations or search numbers or even a search volume pertaining to a single company. However, the selection of 27 industries and related search terms may cause some speculation of a changing way how we acquire information.

For example, the data suggests that the search volume of traffic that targets computing topics has decreased by 52 percent since 2004. Of course, without knowing the details on how Google selects this traffic, it is rather adventurous and even silly to suggest that we do not search computing topics as much as we did eight years ago. Interests could be shifting and Google may not be able to capture the changes right away. Also, some of the graphs are somewhat misleading considering the nature of periodic seasonal search spikes.

Yet it is startling that there has been a persistent decline in this segment. Though, most other segments seem to be suffering as well; advertising is down, as are business and industrial, commercial lending, construction, durable goods, finance and investing, and furniture. The search areas that gained are especially credit cards, mobile devices, mortgage and rental. Google says that its search index can reflect consumer behavior and if we are looking at our economic environment, they may have a case here. We surely live in times that may encourage interest in credit cards, mobile devices, mortgages and rentals.

Nevertheless, the decrease in the computers and electronics segment may be surprising.

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Top Comments
  • 37 Hide
    Zingam , September 3, 2012 1:25 PM
    computers ↓
    porn ↑
  • 37 Hide
    rantoc , September 3, 2012 1:11 PM
    All this could be due to any number of things.

    Some examples.
    People have learned to search more efficient resulting in fewer queries.
    People have more pref sites they visit and rarely search for new as long as their favourites are adequate.
    ect ect ect.

  • 33 Hide
    camel82 , September 3, 2012 1:06 PM
    Maybe there are more non-technical related sources of information on the web now than 10 years ago?
    Blogs, social networks, newspapers, kittens, memes, 9gag jokes...
Other Comments
    Display all 60 comments.
  • 33 Hide
    camel82 , September 3, 2012 1:06 PM
    Maybe there are more non-technical related sources of information on the web now than 10 years ago?
    Blogs, social networks, newspapers, kittens, memes, 9gag jokes...
  • 37 Hide
    rantoc , September 3, 2012 1:11 PM
    All this could be due to any number of things.

    Some examples.
    People have learned to search more efficient resulting in fewer queries.
    People have more pref sites they visit and rarely search for new as long as their favourites are adequate.
    ect ect ect.

  • 23 Hide
    greghome , September 3, 2012 1:13 PM
    or....instead of not having anything to do, most people on the internet these days just stay on Facebook and/or tweeter
  • 37 Hide
    Zingam , September 3, 2012 1:25 PM
    computers ↓
    porn ↑
  • 18 Hide
    TheBigTroll , September 3, 2012 1:25 PM
    if computers are powerful enough for most peoples usage, they probably dont need to research about computer parts since they dont need to upgrade. could be wrong
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , September 3, 2012 1:27 PM
    Or more simply, if you don't have the money to spend on computer/technology etc etc you are less likely to look at something you can't afford at this very moment.
  • 9 Hide
    idroid , September 3, 2012 1:33 PM
    rantocPeople have learned to search more efficient resulting in fewer queries.


    people don't learn.
  • 10 Hide
    egilbe , September 3, 2012 1:35 PM
    More people were n00bs back in 2004 and now more people are growing up with computers in their daily lives. People learn and they don't need to keep going back to research the same topics.
  • 11 Hide
    saturnus , September 3, 2012 1:35 PM
    It a quite natural development that as the internet matures the focus is shifted from being focused technological aspects to social aspects.

    Computers have also shifted from being something people built to something people buy. 10 years ago the Apple slogan "It just works" made perfect sense that for most people PCs just didn't work. They needed help putting a decent system together, install the needed drivers and so forth. Most of the shelf solutions back then were underpowered and/or half finished products. Today, practically any off the shelf computer system will do exactly what the constumer wants and hence our specialist section that follows the tech news to get the best of the newest for our system is a dying breed.

    Now I can't really see if the graph shows percentages or total amount of searches but percentages should naturally be down as the user mass increases because of the above reason. If it's total number of searches that are down, that's worrying news for sites like this that depend on traffic on which the commercials revenue is based upon.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 3, 2012 1:41 PM
    not me!
  • 8 Hide
    DSpider , September 3, 2012 1:42 PM
    A lack of interest in computers probably has to do with more quality components used today than 8 years ago. For example, most motherboards (if not all of them) sold today come with solid capacitors. This means that it lasts longer and the user doesn't have to worry about new parts. Another thing I noticed is that I don't use Google to search for computer parts or electronics when there are specialized websites (like Tom's Hardware, for example).
  • 6 Hide
    freggo , September 3, 2012 1:42 PM
    With computing power and reliability going up there is less need to search as you do not upgrade as often.
    Also, for your typical hardware/software needs (Vendors, Online Help) users will have
    accumulated a set of bookmarks/favorites.

    Like THG, Newegg, Amazon etc.
    So there is less need to search for these things over and over.
    I'd imagine searches are now for more unusual topic; topic of the day, celeb of the day etc.
  • -4 Hide
    jupiter optimus maximus , September 3, 2012 1:57 PM
    I use Startpage to do my searches, so count me out in google's stats.
  • 16 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , September 3, 2012 1:58 PM
    I knew it's a Gruener article before I even opened it. Wolfgang, how come they allow you to write BS about PCs without the "Opinion" prefix again? :D 
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , September 3, 2012 2:02 PM
    He's on the same page as mine. Windows XP, though a good OS compared to previous ones, don't compare to Vista and Win7 reliability. This computer I'm using came from a Release Candidate of Win7. Internet explorer also has been replaced by alternatives.
    Additionally, many users don't have to deal with computers once they had their tablets and smartphones.

    DSpiderA lack of interest in computers probably has to do with more quality components used today than 8 years ago. For example, most motherboards (if not all of them) sold today come with solid capacitors. This means that it lasts longer and the user doesn't have to worry about new parts. Another thing I noticed is that I don't use Google to search for computer parts or electronics when there are specialized websites (like Tom's Hardware, for example).

  • 3 Hide
    manicmike , September 3, 2012 2:03 PM
    Quote:
    A lack of interest in computers probably has to do with more quality components used today than 8 years ago. For example, most motherboards (if not all of them) sold today come with solid capacitors. This means that it lasts longer and the user doesn't have to worry about new parts. Another thing I noticed is that I don't use Google to search for computer parts or electronics when there are specialized websites (like Tom's Hardware, for example).


    ^ I agree :) 

    Also, becuase I can feel someone later down the road with "Oh people just use smartphones now! lolololol", consider this:

    As with all consumer gadgets, you buy it to feel like part of the crowd. It's hip and cool and you're not cool unless you have one. Time to renew your contract, or you dropped it in the toilet, or walked into the corner of a table and broke the screen, or left it on the train... Here, buy the LATEST smartphone, only $150!!!! (with 2 year contract extension).

    My desktop computer lasted me 6 years before it became 100% obsolete (it started to suck after 4 years, top of the line when built). Then I built a new one that'll probably last another 4-5 years (I hope) You don't need a new computer every year or so, EVEN LESS if you don't game.

    EDIT: lol I took too long to post, there already is one
  • 3 Hide
    hokkdawg , September 3, 2012 2:04 PM
    Second DSpider - nowadays, the user experience is so automated that software tends to work right out of the box. There is also a larger base of people who are capable of fixing problems for others. Overall, it probably just means people are having fewer problems that they have to try to solve on their own.
  • 1 Hide
    spentshells , September 3, 2012 2:17 PM
    People know google is collecting is collecting data so they as mentioned go directly to websites instead of using google
  • 2 Hide
    Bloob , September 3, 2012 2:19 PM
    There are more non-techy people on the web nowadays + techies have sites to frequently visit instead of googling everything.
  • 2 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , September 3, 2012 2:50 PM
    If you ask me it is probably due to the success of high quality mass content sites such as wikipedia and other more specialised sites which house most of what people need in one place. Which is great if you ask me. And yes... Also computers have become much more reliable.
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