As Storm Marketing reported yesterday, Asm.com has pulled out of the search engine supremacy race. This leaves us with the question of where is the next search engine competitor going to come from?
Ask.com has decided to revert its efforts back into the Q&A market. It will still have a search engine capability but it will be fully powered by Google. As far as North America and Western Europe go, this only leaves Google, Yahoo and Bing in the search engine market.
This week, discussions took place as to whether a new search engine competitor could enter the fray at the Yahoo Science of Search event. It was no shock that Facebook was brought into the equation.
Given the platform that Facebook operates on, there was a question as to whether it could ever be a search engine. Mark Fagan, IPA Search Council chairman and Yahoo senior director for EMEA search operations, Kevin Broom were of the opinion that Facebook engages a different mindset to Google search and could be out of place.
Although, with this said, there’s no denying that Facebook is growing at a phenomenal rate and big brands are now pushing money at it.
The sheer dominance of Google and to a lesser extent, Microsoft and Yahoo has dismissed challengers including Ask.com recently.
Bing and Facebook already have an association with each other which could be an ideal platform for Facebook moving into the search market.
Most brands are aware of the influence of friend recommendations and are investing in advertising on Facebook. This puts Facebook as a front runner to combine it’s platform into a search engine.
With this in mind, I wouldn’t bet against Facebook entering into the search arena in the future.
Is it possible for anybody else to get close to Google when it comes to online search? Microsoft has made it their mission to catch Google up and has spent plenty of money trying.
Before spending any more money it might be worth Steve Ballmer at Microsoft having a quick chat with Barry Diller of InterActiveCorp (IAC). Diller spent close to $2bn buying up Ask.com in an attempt to battle with Google. However, Diller has now realised that Google cannot be beat.
This week, Diller to all intents and purposes called it a day with pushing Ask.com as a conventional search engine. Diller said, “We’ve realized in the last few years you can’t compete head on with Google.”
Ask.com President, Doug Leeds expanded on Diller’s comments by saying “Google become this huge juggernaut of a company that we really thought we could compete against by innovating. We did a great job of holding our market share but it wasn’t enough to grow the way IAC had hoped we would grow when it bought us.”
Ask.com will now return its efforts to Q&A and outsource a large chunk of its search to a partner who remains anonymous.
Whilst Microsoft is much larger than IAC, they may find the departure of Ask.com more important than most may realise. Microsoft’s approach to catching Google is to be innovative with new features that attract the users. It’s fair to say that some of the upgrades that Microsoft has applied to Bing bear similarities to upgrades made by Ask.com. The problem is that most changes (innovations) are relatively easy for Google to copy and when Google hold the majority audience, it’s hard to see how anybody else can catch them. A prime example of this is Google’s launch of Instant Preview. Google Instant Preview was a differently branded version of a feature Ask.com has had in place for some time now. Due to the dominance of Google, they can sit comfortably knowing they can piggyback on the ideas that other search engines have developed.
This raises a troublesome truth for Microsoft and other search engine competitors. Having a good product and innovation is simply not going to be enough to topple Google. Google is the king when it comes to brand and market share.
Bing, the new search engine from Microsoft has been causing ripples in the online search market. We all know that Google dominate the search engine market but that hasn’t stopped Bing from chipping away at that supremacy with new features. That said, it’s definitely an uphill struggle for the smaller search engines to unsettle Google.
The problem is that innovations made by other search engines often work to the advantage of Google. This was a point made by the CEO of InterActive Corp to which Ask.com belongs.
Ask.com hit the news this week with changes to its user interface that took the site back to a question and answer format. Whilst Ask.com exceeded analyst expectations by achieving growth of 18%, CEO Barry Diller had some frank words about future prospects.
“One thing I want to make clear to investors is that Ask itself is not a large segment of the company. I had hoped it would become one, but I was wrong about that. I was wrong about the competitive landscape with Google.”
Ask.com is a minor competitor in the search sector, but its problems are common. Diller continued:
“A lot of our new features that Ask has been sporting has only helped the competition, as they’ve copied us at every turn and they look a lot like Ask. We’ve learned that spending a lot of money on marketing search products doesn’t get you very far.”
Problems like this are endemic of every search engine. No sooner has a new feature been launched by one search engine than another copies it. Just recently, Google changed its results page, images and background images to look similar to Bing’s.
It seems it will mostly work in Google’s favour because any changes made by smaller competitors to copy Google are unlikely to pinch Google’s customers. Whereas it’s easy for Google to retain its members with any changes they make.
All of this said, Microsoft is far from giving up in the fight to gain the market percentage. Microsoft has invested a lot of money to market Bing and has made modest gains against Google.
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