On Arc Search

Manuel Moreale on Arc Search:

“Now, let’s ignore all this and imagine this approach does work. Let’s imagine we all get on board with this stupid idea of having an AI searching for you. What happens to the web as a whole? Why should I keep creating content for the web if I’m a content creator who relies on traffic to run my creative business? No one will visit my site because the relevant content will be consumed on some boring ass generated pages. And without content on the web, products like ARC Search are pointless.”

Back when Arc Search launched, I panicked. And was disgusted.

I co-run It‘s an ad-supported business. We write content that I believe is meaningful and helpful to the readers; in return, they see ads. This, to me, sounds like a fair deal.

Don‘t get me wrong, I hate ads. They are sometimes scammy, occasionally malicious, and mostly very annoying. But the open internet is built on ads. It‘s how this thing works. Over time, everything will default to ad-based monetisation (for example, TV channels had too many ads, so cable offered an ad-less viewing experience for a monthly. Then cable added ads, so streaming services like Netflix launched for a monthly fee. And now Netflix has ads. Even Substack of all companies is experimenting with ads.).

All these AI tools that summarise websites steal traffic from the source. Sure, Arc Search credits where it got its content from, but let‘s be honest: who clicks through when they got all the information in a summary?

This will lead to the enshittification of the internet.

Here is how I see this going: AI companies steal traffic by summarising and bastardising content. Ad-dependant Publishers run out of money. So, they replace writers with AI because they can‘t pay them anymore. And now AI feeds AI. (And yes, I know that some argue the internet is already broken – but the problem is with Google and their SEO games. They allowed spammy SEO sites to run havoc on the internet for too long instead of fixing their algorithms to give priority to real writers. And since launching overkill, I met many people running SEO spam sites but cosplaying as „journalists“ and „bloggers“.)

The only consequence I see (besides killing AI) is publishers going for subscription models. Heck, we are planning them for overkill. But there are only so many subscriptions people can sign up for. Subscription fatigue is real. And you need to be up there with the best (though the metrics vary) because otherwise, why sign up for you versus your peers?

I don‘t see a way out with our current pace (maybe The Browser Company’s CEO, Josh Miller, has a plan on how Arc will circumvent all this. In that case, email me! And the solution better not be „web3“).

And if any of the big players, say Google (to keep people on Google and show ads) or Apple (to sell more iPhones, maybe even bundle it in iCloud+), decide to copy this feature, it‘s game over for the open internet.