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Consolidation in the Search Industry, Says Chris Sherman

Chris Sherman has been keeping a close eye on the search engines for as long as anyone and he says we’ve seen a consolidation down to just 4 major players. He had folks guess which was which—and they weren’t that obvious.

  • The guardian of the conservative status quo (surprisingly, it’s Google)
  • Proud owner of the Emperor’s new clothes (the easy one – Yahoo!)
  • The assimilator as innovator (Microsoft, which used to be the acquirer)
  • The shiny new disruptor (Wolfram/Alpha, which made quite a splash this year)

Chris says that Google is doing interesting things (and he reviewed quite a list, including Fast Flip, Google Squared, etc.) but they’re not earth shattering. The company has lost its momentum as a “leading indicator,” he says.

Yahoo is going back to its roots as a browse service. Chris seemed most impressed by Microsoft and the cool features of Bing. Another surprise for me was putting Wolfram/Alpha as the 4th player. It says it’s not a search engine but a “computational knowledge engine.” But, he noted that it draws on high-quality licensed data sets.

He gave a fairly deprecating opinion of “real-time” search—“it won’t have any lasting value as a search medium for info pros. He wonders whether Facebook and Twitter will be around in 10 years. He finished by discussing the huge trend of ad targeting—some benign, such as geographic or language targeting, and then behavioral targeting, which raises privacy concerns. His bottom line: search engine competition has increased and this should drive innovation.

Paula J. Hane

ITI News Bureau Chief

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