It’s Over. Google Wins.

Increasingly, when I talk to folks in the industry, and they ask me my view on search, I say the above. In search, it's over, Google wins. WIth Yahoo flailing, and Microsoft hiding in the weeds, search is slouching toward a natural monopoly. We may as well call it….

Increasingly, when I talk to folks in the industry, and they ask me my view on search, I say the above. In search, it’s over, Google wins. WIth Yahoo flailing, and Microsoft hiding in the weeds, search is slouching toward a natural monopoly. We may as well call it. Sure, there are really interesting startups. But….nothing that interesting.

So now what? Well, the situation is ripe for disruption, ain’t it? It was during a terrible recession that Google made its name (2001-3). What might be next?

19 thoughts on “It’s Over. Google Wins.”

  1. In the early days of the Internet, Google was great. It used an algorithm that has been used in academia for about half a century to rank research — to rank essentially research papers (since in the early days the web was very much an academic playground — for more on this, see ).

    The Google-Killer will take a more advanced approach to search than ranking in a one-size fits-all methodology. If I want to buy “sandals”, then I do not want to find some erotic story about sandals falling off — therefore, I would want to search sandals among “shoes”, “shoestores”, “footwear”, “clothing” or even “retail” domains. Presently, Google dishes out really crappy ads to parked pages — but there is such high demand for relevant (i.e. “focused”, “targeted”) information that they apparently still earn a profit on it.

    Also, there is still the problem of very basic education. For example: Yesterday I used http://Browse.NAME to seach for news — and I was surprised to find that the owners of have nothing there. Old media / publishing companies simply still do not understand how new media works — new media is “machine readable”, and therefore information must be properly encoded, not simply streamed en masse. Let’s see how long Google will sink money into YouTube without the faintest shimmer of hope of turning a profit on it (note that this primarily depends on how long advertisers bidding on Google’s search keywords are willing to have their hard-earned money wasted by subsidizing teenagers spending hours & days violating copyright laws).

    If you want a “quick fix” killer search app, I have mentioned this before: — that is a very simple solution that could probably be coded in 5-10 minutes. If another search provider was “worried” that it might upset it’s users, then roll it out as an optional feature (“being beta-tested”).

    But I’m full of ideas — here’s a funny one:

    1. Have a results page with “sponsored” and/or “paid placement” listings mixed in under the regular search results

    2. The user plays a game to guess whether a result is “paid” or “algorithmic” (perhaps by guessing the ppc rate — from $0.00 to $100.00)

    3. If the guess is within X% correct, then the user is credited with 1 Google pseudo-share; after acquiring 1 million GOOG pseudo-shares, these can be traded in for a bumper-sticker that reads “I Know How to Search the Web with Google

  2. Google is at 87% in the UK. Couldn’t agree with you more John, its going to take somthign genuinely disruptive to make any difference to Google’s monopoly

  3. There is already a google killer. Its called WebFountain – but for reasons we can only speculate, its kept under wraps and access can only be bought (for large sums of money).

    I wonder how long till a replication of this technology becomes available en-masse.


  4. @nmw I don’t think categories work as an alternative. It’s easier to form your own categories on the fly, than select from a pre-defined list.
    Just search for ‘sandals footwear’ 😉
    There’s still a long way to go & the only really complete solution would be an AI that knew you well 🙂

  5. Note: I wrote a reply to Nick that’s still awaiting review


    I tried your suggested search query:

    and I captured a screenshot — it is stored at:

    One interesting thing about the top result is that “footwear” does not appear on the page (wasn’t that supposed to be the “algorithmic” fix to get “miserable failure” off of the internet — namely that documents supposedly only show up if/when the strings actually appear in the document?).

    I wonder why Teva was selected as the top result for this search query. Even if I require footwear (“+footwear”), the result shows up (even though the term “footwear” does not appear anywhere on the page — not in the text, not in the title — not even in the URL!).

    It appears that Google highly recommends sandals from — whether you have included the term “footwear” in your search query or not.

    Apart from that: If you feel that information retrieval is about building profiles about the searcher, I will beg to differ (indeed: I differ vehemently — such user profiling would be neither effective nor desirable, and although you may be able to fool some of the people all of the time, and although you may be able to fool all of the people some of the time, you simply can’t fool all of the people all of the time [because somebody would still have to shave the barber ;]).

  6. My 2 cents .. next blog search will be

    A) social ( cf answer from Reid Hoffman on a similar question:

    As Reid said, temporal relevance is something that’s clearly not in existing search

    Also, WHO said something or wrote something is becoming as/more important than WHAT is said. (adds up WHO knows WHO and you’ve got some good specs for a social search).

    B) Expression on the web has become personal and search engines currently do not leverage this variety of expression.

    Let’s say I want “sandals footwear” article:
    – written by … teens
    – technical articles
    – commercial articles
    – funny content

    Existing search engines cannot provide me with such a capability, although it’s feasible.

  7. Google is in the same position as Microsoft in the 80’s and 90’s within the Office market. No one was able to compete then with Microsoft – but all of a sudden the internet came around and MS had to adjust – and they were not really up for it.

    It will take a new ‘something’ that won’t topple Google in the search market but in another field not yet invented or brought to the masses.

    Just my 2 cents.


    – Holger

  8. Search dominance by Google is due to wide-spread adoption. AOL was the search king in the early days because that was all the dial-ups knew when it came to search. Google is now synonymous with search because it has been ingrained into peoples mindset – you don’t search for something, you Google it. So how do you take down Google? Build a better search engine? As we all know people will use a sub-par product based on familiarity. The only way I see how to take down Google is through vertical search – topic specific or content specific.

  9. I agree with nmw: Education is very much needed.

    With user education, not only will (as JuliaK says above) competition over the quality of the search RESULT be put back into user-beneficial play, but the PROCESS will be up for grabs, too.

    The problem is that Google has conditioned us to believe that one process is the only available/best process.

    Imagine what would happen if many Americans started believing that a single source (process) of news was the only source of news. Let’s say, Fox, for example.

    Loss of diversity is a bad thing.

  10. In the early days of the Internet, Google was great. It used an algorithm that has been used in academia for about half a century to rank research

    nmw: That didn’t sound correct when I first read it. Half a century?

    Then I went back and did the math. Eugene Garfield, Science Citation Index (SCI). Where the idea was to index papers based on citation “hyperlinks”, and use that index for improved information retrieval, ala PageRank. Check out this quote from a 1955 article by Eugene Garfield ( I’ve bolded those passages that essentially illustrate the core Google PageRank idea:

    Under each code number, for example, 3001-6789, there would be listed other code numbers representing articles that had referred to the article in question, together with an indication of whether the citing source was an original article, review, abstract, review article, patent, or translation, and so forth. In effect, the system would provide a complete listing, for the publications covered, of all the original articles that had referred to the article in question. This would clearly be particularly useful in historical research, when one is trying to evaluate the significance of a particular work and its impact on the literature and thinking of the period. Such an “impact factor” may be much more indicative than an absolute count of the number of a scientist’s publications, which was used by Lehman (3) and Dennis (4). The “impact factor” is similar to the quantitative measure obtained by Gross (5) in evaluating the relative importance of scientific journals, a method later criticized by Brodman (6) but used again by Fussler (7).

    So Google in 1998, Garfield in 1955. That’s 43 years. Almost about half a century! You’re absolutley right. Amazing.

  11. @nmw
    I am a little surprised that the term “footwear” doesn’t appear on the page, although it does appear to be a good match on a category basis – I think “footwear” is a good label for that page, although it does seem a bit of a narrow match

    In terms of profiling, i feel that to provide the ‘best’ answer to all search queries (or just questions) the phrasing of the query is insufficient, you mush also have context – geographic, other recent questions, personal preferences, near future events – as it is inefficient for the query to include all these factors
    (eg if i asked a friend where is good to eat nearby, they may take into account that i can drive & have my car available)
    It may be undesireable, but will tend to improve the results, even if that’s only by eliminating irrelevancies

  12. Google hasn’t won anything.

    They have inferior search technology on several fronts (Ask generally provides better quality responses for general Web search).

    They only control about 35% of REAL Market share (as measured by number of visitors per search engine and number of sessions per search engine).

    They are getting their butts kicked in major non-American markets like Russia and China.

    And they aren’t called The Search Engine That Spam Built (TSETSB) for nothing. It’s easier to get Web spam into Google than into the other search engines.

    People need to stop fussing over the estimated number of queries performed at search engines. If you have to run 3 times as many queries at Google as at Microsoft, that’s a pretty solid indicator that Google isn’t showing you the best results.

  13. As much as I like Google and just about all of the services they offer, I would like to see a disruption in their growing search hegemony. For the better of the search marketplace I’d like to see Google have to put up a fight and defend it’s search dominance so that Google, and other players in the industry, are inspired to innovate and produce quality products as a means of holding on to their piece of the pie. Healthy industry competition usually equates to better products and services for customers!

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