Navigating Back to SIMPLICITY: How to Reclaim GOOGLE's Classic Search in an AI-Driven World

At its I/O 2024 developers conference, Google unveiled AI Overviews, a feature that drastically changed how people use search. It summarised the key takeaways of a query in a concise way right within the search result, leveraging ‘the power of AI’ in order to ‘help you save time.’ Despite the good intentions behind the feature, Google’s drastic overhaul has sparked some pretty fierce backlash, with some longing for the simplistic nature of Google’s old search experience. In this article, we’ll discuss how to disable AI Overviews and go back to good old Google.

The Rise and Complications of AI Overviews

When Google released AI Overviews, they promised to deliver on a user’s search query with a quick summary, right at the top of the page of results. The objective was to summarise a user’s request while saving time. Instead, bad AI summation inspired everything from ludicrous claims such as adding glue to pizza, to dangerous misinformation. In some cases, AI got it very wrong, producing sentiment that demands a return to the previous search layout.

Discovering the UDM 14 Solution

A hack using the URL parameter ‘&udm=14’ sidesteps the AI overview in favour of the list of blue links that old hands miss. Go to, and the site presents the old Google interface by default so you can goggle to your heart’s content, free of AI Overviews.

Setting up on Desktop

This is as simple as it gets if you are already a Google search user on a desktop (Chrome browser), as I am. A few tweaks in your Chrome settings allows you to make ‘Google Web’ your default search engine, with the addition of UDM 14. Don’t panic. Here’s how it is done for you.

  • Navigate to chrome://settings/searchEngines in the Chrome browser.
  • In the drop-down menu under Site Search, click ‘add’, and fill in the necessary information with the URL: {google:baseURL}search?q=%s​​​​​​​
  • Restart Chrome, and the settings will take effect, restoring the classic search experience.

Embracing the Classic on Mobile Devices

For mobile users, a trick to bring back the old-school Google search results can be just a few seconds away: going to will bypass any AI Overviews. A few tweaks in your browser settings to select Google as your preferred search engine will guarantee that every search displays the old user interface.

The Pursuit of an AI-Free Google Experience

Nonetheless, these workarounds reflect the underlying consternation with Google’s enforced use of AI Overviews. Even though Google presented AI summaries as an experimental search feature, ‘we might remove it at any time’, it’s there – in the search results – forever. For those who dislike it, the best recourse seems to be one of the hacks, like UDM 14. The only viable way for a user to communicate their discontent directly to Google is to say ‘hey Google, I want to turn off AI Overviews’.

Reflecting on Google's Path Forward

Google’s merger of AI with search could well be a harbinger of things to come, as the company tries to re-shape how we receive information in the future. Despite all the inconsistencies and slips along the way, these technologies indicate a sea-change in the way we receive information. But the collective desire for Google’s old search shows the lasting value of searching efficiently without complication or mediation.

About Google

Google was founded in 1998 by Stanford PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin as a search engine, but quickly evolved into a tech behemoth that offers a wide range of different services outside of just search, such as YouTube, Gmail, and the Android operating system. Google’s mission from the very beginning remains ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’, and this is a mission that still informs both the innovations and services it continues to develop. As Google evolves further into the future and integrates more and more AI into search, it will continue to be committed to making search more user-friendly while also grappling with how to manage this new technology to maintain their market leadership.

Thus, though AI is the future of search, I think a lot of people would still turn back to how it all started, a classic Google search, by URL fiddling or browser setting changes as the pendulum swings between innovation and simplicity, still finding that curious balance. Google continues to transform and adapt to the years ahead. But let’s sincerely hope that its user base speaks up when it missteps and changes the mechanisms on which we’ve grown accustomed – if not dependent – upon.

Jun 02, 2024
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