It's not a double blind test but I did a delicious search typing "weather freeware" and Weather Watcher is third with the 1st 2 options being Netvibes and NASA World Wind: http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov/java/
Hardly fluff compared to Google's results.
The internet is always self-correcting. Every seemingly miracle pill is at the same time it's bane.
SEO changed the game and people took advantage, now there's more semantic web-based concepts and once again people are taking advantage. Thus we have newer casual discovery styles in social network discovery as opposed to crowd sourcing which was supposed to solve the problems with SEO which was supposed to solve the problems with Yahoo's search engine methodology.
Taking this into mind, the pattern is always that society ruins the Web but society doesn't feel like it has a responsibility to fix it so the newer technology comes and is then again ruined by society.
(By society, I don't mean just the mass influx of people online or the white hat/grey hat/black hat hacker community + game theorist scammers but ultimately human behaviour interacting with human behaviour at the speed and size we have with the internet.)
That's why I think the question should be changed into:"Has SEO ruined the web for you because you relied on it?"
It is rude...even disinformative to redirect one's phrasing of the question but the sad reality is that this isn't a new phenomenon.
For so long the cliche of technology changing humanity and humanity changing along with technology is so ingrained that when it corrupts and no longer fits our idealistic perception we used to have, it always make sensationalists out of everyone.
Maybe it sounds over-reaching coming from a tech newbie like me to expand a basic premise as "Are Initial Search Engine Results still useful nowadays?" into a grand salt doll but ultimately I also think there's a low chance someone will post a reply with this perspective (or at least this is my assumption) so why not say this?
After all, it seems over-reaching but as important it is to reply with the quality of SEO impacting modern search results in mind, it is just as important to state the obvious: asking cold (most of the time) won't get you anywhere either.
If it was really good enough, there wouldn't have been enough need for a search engine and Forum Software would have beaten out Search Engine in the grand scheme of things.
That's why IMO the impact of technology on us people is always important even if no one wants to hear it. (especially from a newbie such as me on the topic.)
It's not just the obviousness that every technology will be degraded by society. It's not just the obviousness that technology (especially social related technology) becomes more gameable and is eventually superseded by a new technological concept ... or at least a new adaptation of the old concept... it is most important to bring up the issue of expecting help in the internet.
Selective thinking will always make us say, it's easier to say this technology seems crappier after another form of technology (no matter how old) helped us but what if it doesn't for another person? What then? Has forums ruined the web?
; Has Yahoo Answers ruined the web?
; Have Wikis ruined the web?
...and if the answer is yes: What then?
With low expectations (due to knowing this premise) we could at least be indifferent enough to not be emotionally scarred by the situation.
...but as the more the internet becomes an everyday part of our lives, the more difficult it is to have low expectations especially with long-time internet users, tech experts and people in the know pumping up the value of JFGI (NSFW)
and RTFM and politically correct ways to deny help ...redefining technology won't ever speed the solution enough as to avoid this future scenario from looping itself unless we also prepare ourselves for the way the internet likes to help us (but not help us enough) ...but there's rarely enough social demand to raise this awareness, at least not compared to the next new and improved technology in the cloud and how it will help us improve our lives.