Last week, Google began rolling out a new look for its search results on desktop, which blurs the line between organic search results and the ads that sit above them. In what appears to be something of a purposeful dark pattern, the only thing differentiating ads and search results is a small black-and-white “Ad” icon next to the former. It’s been formatted to resemble the new favicons that now appear next to the search results you care about. Early data collected by Digiday suggests that the changes may already be causing people to click on more ads.
The Guardian’s Alex Hern is one of many commenters to point out the problem, noting that there’s now next to no visual distinction between ads and search results. “There is still, technically, *labelling*, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that it is supposed to be difficult to spot at a glance where the adverts end,” he tweeted.