Search engine guru Danny Sullivan is always a welcome addition to any Internet Librarian program—he’s so busy traveling to his own company’s events that’s it’s great to grab him when the opportunity presents. He says he likes to come to IL because it forces him to examine if there are big “themes” to discuss.
If there is a theme, it’s that there isn’t a Google killer yet—Google is likely to dominate for the foreseeable future. They have made it very difficult for anybody to challenge them.
Cuil.com played the “biggest is better” card again (and had a great “founders” story)…but bigger isn’t better – Cuil’s relevancy was woeful.
Powerset was hyped as a potential killer but it proved that natural language isn’t a natural killer. It only searched Wikipedia—and was then acquired by Microsoft, for not much money. It has intriguing technology but Danny says it is overkill at this point.
Microsoft fumbled with Yahoo! and as a result set Google up as more powerful than ever. Google now has more than 60% market share in the U.S. and even higher in many other countries, such as Germany. So, is that it? Does Google now rule everything?
What Danny says is there likely won’t be a single killer—there will be “killerettes.” There will be many small contenders that nibble away in niche areas. Here are some of the interesting tools he mentioned—most of them consumer oriented.
- Summize/Twitter search – hyper real-time tool to follow the buzz and breaking news, and Google at this point has nothing like this (http://search.twitter.com)
- Urbanspoon – never wonder where to eat again (this iPhone app that knows where you are and picks a restaurant—it actually uses a huge database of reviews) again, Google has nothing like this
- Eventful (http://eventful.com)
- Upcoming (owned by Yahoo! – Google has no event search, and may have to play catch-up in this space)
- Yelp (local reviews of all types at http://yelp.com)
- Trulia.com and Zillow.com – for real estate information
- Kayak.com and Farecast.com (now owned by Microsoft) for travel info
- Craigslist.org – buy and sell related to local areas (Google has Google Base but it hasn’t really taken off)
- Jobs at Indeed.com
- News/discovery at Digg.com
- Video search – Blinkx.com, VideoSurf.com
- Gas prices at GasBuddy.com
But the “killerettes” have a challenge – it’s hard to remember all the ones out there and go back to them.
Yahoo continues to face uncertainty. It is still doing innovative things – BOSS, Search Monkey (enhanced search listings), etc. With the assumption that Microsoft will eventually take over, which just makes for more uncertainty—it’s hard to get excited. Like the situation with Ask.com—Danny finds it hard to even talk about them. People lose faith with these alternatives.
Microsoft is positioning itself as the chief competitor…and it has some good stuff, but will people really notice and will it grow? It bailed out of “non-consumer” search; it focused on ads first and search second; and it has major branding problems.
Lots of people try to figure out where Google is taking us—does it have a “master plan”? Danny’s theory is that it has done some planning (Chrome browser, Google Checkout) but much of it comes naturally, through a “hive mind” mentality (see his post at searchengineland.com). He thinks the economy will slow the company’s growth somewhat but it may weather things better than most companies. Unfortunately, he says we’ll see many more ads—everywhere.
The real big trend that he says will continue is personalized search results. Google is now doing “search customization” – it is tailoring results based on your geographic location, previous query, and your Web history. He thinks Google will ramp this up. As a search professional you may not want it to do this.
The bottom line: Google will continue to be the benevolent dictator—for the next 5 years or so. Mobile and vertical search do offer new opportunities, but the economic downturn may hit some of the startups.
Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, Information Today, Inc.