Google has taken the step of removing its reading level search feature. Rolled out in 2010, reading level allowed users to find search results better suited to individual needs. Using the reading level enabled users to filter out content according to basic, intermediate or advanced reading level.
An expert on a particular subject matter could use the filter to remove basic articles from their searches. Alternatively, a newcomer to a topic could limit their searches to basic material until such time as they had a gained a better understanding of it. To give just another example of how the reading level might have been used, an individual learning a second language might want to identify webpages written at a basic level of that language.
A bug in the reading level feature preventing users from restricting results to “advanced reading level pages” had become apparent, but rather than remedy the situation by fixing the bug, Google has instead dropped the feature in its entirety.
Google had expressed a level of pride regarding the development of the reading level feature, saying that it had hired teachers to review web content as a means of fine tuning the filter. Teachers were asked to classify webpages according to different levels of reading ability, and the classifications were used by Google to build the reading level feature. However, it does seems likely that the search engine giant saw that the reading level feature was being used by just a small percentage of its overall user base, in a similar pattern to what has happened with its other advanced search features. Google has begun to focus on answering questions and embracing natural language understanding, meaning that features used by so-called power users are becoming much less relevant.
In the past five years, Google has dropped a number of search features, relating to:
- Sites with images.
- Search results written in foreign languages – known as “translated foreign pages.”
- Restricting results to blogs, reviews and forums.
- Finding recipes.
- Taking shopping sites out of lists of search results.
- Blocking of search results.
- Quick view in respect of PDF and other Office files.
- Timeline view of search results.