Gen Z Is Turning to TikTok as Go-To Search Engine, Claims Google
Trump Gives TikTok and Oracle Deal His ‘Blessing'

Gen Z Is Turning to TikTok as Go-To Search Engine, Claims Google

TikTok has already dominated the social media landscape. Now, its users are helping it become a search engine.

While at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference, Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan said internal research indicates that users aged 18 to 24 are forgoing Google Search or Maps and instead sending their inquiries to social media sites. Despite growing concern about misinformation on such platforms, TechCrunch reported that TikTok and Instagram are now steering attention away from the core feature that launched the company into notoriety.

“We keep learning, over and over again, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and the mindset that we have become accustomed to,” Raghavan said at the conference.

Google, for its part, wants to highlight TikTok and Instagram videos in its search engine. Additionally, Raghavan said the search engine is incorporating more visuals while also leaning into voice searches.

As TikTok users film their meals and often add short, quippy reviews, Raghavan said Gen Z is turning to social media apps for their next lunch spot. Many TikTok users turn to influencers for food suggestions, with Los Angeles restaurants like The Red Chickz and Paris Tokyo gaining notoriety on the app.

Users often check the app for a wide range of recommendations. Raghavan’s statements confirm that TikTok users are turning to the video-sharing app for information. Videos under the hashtag for facts, hacks and recommendations, #tiktoktaughtme, have gained a cumulative 8 billion views.

Influencers on TikTok, however, often do not accurately disclose when a video includes sponsored content, as required by the Federal Trade Commission. And marketing companies have shifted to incorporate ideologies, like Urban Legend, an ad-tech startup that recruits social media celebrities from macro to nano to create content around everything from climate change to discouraging mask mandates. Urban Legend’s strategy draws on the idea that users who turn to influencers for recipe recommendations or fashion trends may also trust their opinion on political issues—even if many of the posts were not flagged as sponsored.

TikTok has also come under fire for misinformation—from the potentially harmful abortion tips to international elections to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the app has been criticized for not doing enough to combat it. Google has also been criticized for how its algorithm can highlight misinformation, such as suggesting “fake” abortion clinics.

With TikTok’s growing popularity, Google must contend with how to capture Gen Z’s attention as they try to retain that audience. And TikTok, for all its problems, has helped communities come together to inform people about topics ranging from autism diagnoses for women to astrological terms to LGBTQ+ information. Suggestions get local, too, with Los Angeles residents sharing free things to do downtown, vintage stores to shop at and museums to visit—succinctly providing recommendations with flashy videos.

These E-Scooter Companies Are Changing Their Low-Income Programs in LA
Photo by Maylin Tu

When Lime launched in Los Angeles in 2018, the company offered five free rides per day to low-income riders, so long as they were under 30 minutes each.

But in early May, that changed. Rides under 30 minutes now cost low-income Angelenos a flat rate of $1.25. As for the five free rides per day, that program ended December 2021 and was replaced by a rate of $0.50 fee to unlock e-scooters, plus $0.07 per minute (and tax).

Lime isn’t alone. Lyft and Spin have changed the terms of their city-mandated low-income programs. Community advocates say they were left largely unaware.

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Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
Part Pixar, Part Roomba: Meet Moxie, the Pasadena-Built Learning Robot for Children

Wide-eyed and sweet, meet Moxie, the $1,500 robot for children.

The creators of the one-foot tall emotive machine want Moxie to become your child's newest companion. Geared toward autistic children, the company believes Moxie embodies "the very best of humanity" in a form of technology that fuels learning.

"What we are trying to do with this product is to amp up the benefit of social or, if you like, emotional intelligence," said its creator Paolo Pirjanian. "I want every child to be able to access this."

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Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.