Google will fall to the first upstart who cares about Search

26 comments
Source Title:
Are Google Doing an AltaVista?
Story Text:

Or so says Dave Winer when he says they're doing an AltaVista. AltaVista fell because they wanted to be everything, are GOOG headed the same way?

If you think Google is a search play, keep your eye out for an upstart who thinks the various flavors of search belong under one roof, rather than diversified.

[...]

I don't consider Google invincible in search, not as long as they leave such juicy tidbits around for their competitors, for such vain reasons. They're too impressed with themselves. More impressed than we are.

Ouch! But that last paragraph really says it all i think. They are far more impressed with themselves than we are...

So, could someone with a strong SEARCH play come and steal Google's tarnished, slightly dented crown?

Comments

yep... Microsoft..

I see MSN has a large sleeping Grizzly Bear... and the google boys are really starting to wake the beast up :)

Yahoo imo has caught up (search wise)... they just need a bit more time to sort out their Ad programs and how to display ad's in their products ... small is better ;)

DaveN

The Problem Is...

that for most consumers Google = Search and Search = Google. That is simply not true for Y or MSN, and it's a huge barrier to growth for their dedicated search products.

As long as search is merely one component of the entertainment offerings at Y!, getting people to load up the Y homepage just to do search is unlikely (much beyond levels already occuring). At least MSN has the desktop and browser offerings as points of default distribution.

Any really serious competitor to G - in pure search - is gonna have to offer a plain, simple, fast loading search page with a brand name that means 'search' in consumers minds. An entity like that would have a shot, if the search product is good.

I don't see tons of people bookmarking Y or MSN's dedicated search pages - now or in future. So those guys are gonna have to find a better way in, if the want to grow share.

Maybe once Ask sheds themselves of the moronic butler and gets serious about marketing? That, or more likely, a brand name will need to emerge that none of us know about yet.

that for most consumers

that for most consumers Google = Search and Search = Google. That is simply not true for Y or MSN, and it's a huge barrier to growth for their dedicated search products.

I never thought i'd ever root for MS, but i really hope they do something exciting with Start.com....

I've been present when a

I've been present when a (non-search, admittedly) VP of Google actually said the words "It's not all about search any more", so I agree to an extent... However, the AV story had another factor in it : their algo was falling apart, 80% of the URL submissions they were getting even their creaky anti-spam detectors could catch, and this was just as G popped up with their new, as-yet-untarnished link analysis method.

Basically, AV imploded at exactly the same time as a successor appeared, and I believe that it was the coincidence of these things that did the damage in such a short time. G have a much more robust index, despite the recent moans, so I don't believe we'll ever see things change that fast again. Unless, of course, someone comes up with an entirely new way of calculating ranking again.

I've heard of a few interesting things out there, but nothing that would be such an astonishing improvement as to do to G, what they did to AV, IMO

I think Y and MSN will erode G's market share over time, as Y improve their marketing, and MSN continue to collect data.

I don't think the brand is as strong as everyone (including Google) think. If someone can produce a noticably superior product, I think G's market share will nosedive

Who consumers associate with search...

Who consumers associate with search is not important. There was a time when everyone mentioned Yahoo! first. Big deal.

The problem is that there are no up-and-coming rivals to take advantage of a Google gaffe. So, even if Google is following the Altavista route, they have a ways to go before they hit the point of no return.

And, anyway, Google seems to have more resources than Altavista did. DEC spun them off and then they got bought up by a holding company that seemed to specalize in devaluing IT properties. Eventually, Yahoo! got what was left of AV -- an empty shell.

There isn't anyone to spin Google off, and I doubt a cheap holding company could acquire the primary assets from Google.

ON EDIT:

Quote:
TallTroll wrote:
...However, the AV story had another factor in it : their algo was falling apart, 80% of the URL submissions they were getting even their creaky anti-spam detectors could catch, and this was just as G popped up with their new, as-yet-untarnished link analysis method.

Altavista had actually introduced a fantastic new algorithm, their database was growing, and their spam filter was working just fine. By contrast, Google's fancy new algorithm was so easilly manipulated that the spammers ate it alive.

It's a miracle that Google survived to achieve any sort of success, and they owe a great deal of that success not only to the mismanagement of Altavista, but also to the patronage of Yahoo!, who dropped Inktomi to use Google for their supplemental results.

Yahoo! made the real difference for Google.

But today, there is no equivalent platform to what Yahoo! was then for a rival to take advantage of.

consumers...

Who consumers associate with search is not important

Hehe. Yeah, like it doesn't matter to Mercedes what car company people think of when they first think "luxury car" ... or it doesn't matter to Coke what pops into consumers' minds when they feel thirst. MM you better fire off a quick note to those companies and let 'em know they're wasting tons 'o money on consumer marketing. I'm sure their shareholders will thank you. ;-)

There's an odd tendency in the tech world for some to think that basic tenets of consumer marketing, like top of mind awareness and brand personality don't matter, even when the product is consumer oriented.

Clearly in search, tech community opinions matter (early adapters and trend setters). So does product quality. So does distribution (hugely important in fact).

But it's not just marketing common sense that applies here; it's plain 'ol common sense. A lot of search volume (I have no idea what a lot is) is still driven by the average Joe deciding he needs to find something, heading for the browser, and going SOMEWHERE to start the search process.

Again, distribution plays no small role here, e.g., desktop presense/integration, toolbars, etc.

But often Joe just pulls up the browser and CHOOSES to go SOMEWHERE. As long as SEARCH = Google in Joe's mind, Google gets that search. How many people who site down to just do a quick search from scratch, with no windows open or no default search page, would choose the slow loading heavy pages of Y or MSN? Not many.

I'd agree with Nick's comment that Start.com has interesting potential. And I'm not at all convinced that with new marketing and distribution that Ask is out of the game yet. But Y and MSN have built in ceilings as long as they try to gain search share from their portal homepages. Just too much other extraneous crap there.

Of course, this is just one caveman's opinion. ;-)

>>"It's not all about search

>>"It's not all about search any more"

true, very true. google will no doubt get supplanted but they seem to be wisely moving to a new direction. i think in end google will end up being a platform that offers web-based open source applications to users and matches up customizers of those open source apps with buyers of those custom apps. and everything on this google platform gets slapped with adsense, of course. in this way google could end up owning a serious piece of the software market in addition to its advertising business model.

Just like..

Just like Microsoft was going to lose to {INSERT_HOT_COMPANY_NAME} for the last 20 years ?

MSFT will lose to GOOG, no

MSFT will lose to GOOG, no doubt :)

not the point

What I am trying to say is there are lots of doomsayers for successful companies and they are rarely right. Particularly when your talking about companies with reserves as deep as Microsoft and Google. These are companies that can afford to have things go horribly wrong and still pay to catch up.

Why bet against a winner

Why bet against a winner when there is no payoff :)

they won't 'loose' now

I think it's now a question of how they want to be percieved not whether they'll continue to be a lead player.

Microsoft are disliked by huge numbers of people, in fact often by people who don't really understand why they whinge about them they just know it's trendy in a certain sector to so they join in. Do MS care? No of course not why in hell would they? They earn money, they have market share, even when they take a few hits they still come out on top.

So Google are at the crossroads - they can go the MS route which will probably piss a few of us off royally but ultimately why should they care? They don't need to be everyones darling to keep making money.

The problem with that is the whole 'do no evil' mantra. If they really want to hang on to everyones hearts and minds then they need to change tacks. Whoevers fault it is Google is percieved as going rotten. I think they can conciously choose to do no evil or conciously choose to make money quick. In the long term they'll make an equal amount of money but why should they look at long term when they can cash in on their accumulated goodwill now and still be earning good money for the next few decades?

platform that offers

platform that offers web-based open source

I don't think so personally. Free perhaps, but not open source. Google has never made anything open sofar, so why should they start now.

A9, otoh, could do that.

Gurtie

They made that choice when they went public. They have shareholders to answer to now.

if that's the case

they should just go for it. 'sort of' caring is pointless.

haha

"do no evil... sorta"

nice

grizzlies are cranky when you wake them

I see MSN has a large sleeping Grizzly Bear... and the google boys are really starting to wake the beast up :)

DaveN

msn is, and has always been, the sleeping grizzly. why are grizzlies especially scary? well, IMHO they embody a number of powerful factors - mass, aggression, and effective weapons. how does msn fill this description?

- one of the largest mature companies on the planet

- not afraid to bear down (no pun intended) on people they see threatening their turf, no matter how they perceive it

- and they've got really expensive lawyers

msn has known for a long, long time that they're in what may be the battle of their lives when it comes to search. the reason they're so big and scary is that they're built on an OS that most of the planet uses (distribution). that gives them leverage in a lot of different directions. Windows Vista (ne: longhorn) is said to integrate some search functionality, and will probably control the browser in some way, yeah?

Any really serious competitor to G - in pure search - is gonna have to offer a plain, simple, fast loading search page with a brand name that means 'search' in consumers minds. An entity like that would have a shot, if the search product is good.

and

Yeah, like it doesn't matter to Mercedes what car company people think of when they first think "luxury car" ... or it doesn't matter to Coke what pops into consumers' minds when they feel thirst.

caveman

*cough*

could someone please hand me a Kleenex?

caveman, you raise an excellent point. the odyssey of google branding themselves is impressive. you can't become one of the planet's most recognizable brands without something going for you. i hear it's even better if you can do it without throwing direct marketing dollars around....

google got where they are because they offered, at the time, a very valuable utility (search), for the right price (free), and they did it better than the next guy. because of this they are embedded in popular consciousness.

I think Y and MSN will erode G's market share over time, as Y improve their marketing, and MSN continue to collect data.

I don't think the brand is as strong as everyone (including Google) think. If someone can produce a noticably superior product, I think G's market share will nosedive

TallTroll

excellent point. the problem that google's battling now, IMHO:

despite that google offers a great search utility for free and people know their name - they aren't truly embedded in their users' lives to the same extent that msn is. the vast majority of the populace accesses google through IE. however, through the power of google's brand they seem to be indelibly linked to the word "search". all hail the meme - "i've googled that person...."

in my tinfoil opinion, this situation leads to a kind of imbalance in the company where google is acutely aware that their primary utility could be supplanted, yet they know that the power of their brand allows them to reach aggressively into the areas they haven't touched yet, e.g. a virtual OS. if my voodoo gorilla math is correct, this is where the google vs msn will start head-butting for serious.

Google IS search

Caveman said:

Quote:
that for most consumers Google = Search and Search = Google. That is simply not true for Y or MSN, and it's a huge barrier to growth for their dedicated search products.

That is HUGE.

And more than that, Google is currently a household name. Those comparing what Google is doing and what happened with AltaVista many moons ago are forgetting that most people weren't online back then. AltaVista was NEVER a household name.

Did they talk about AltaVista on sitcoms? No.

Google has permeated nearly everyone who has a computer's lives, whether you like it or not. They will not be going away any time soon.

Google IS search to the average person (at least in the US, I can't speak for other countries). I doubt there are too many people around who haven't heard of Google and who don't use it on a regular basis. Not if they're online at all.

Yes but Yahoo is HUGE also.

Yes but Yahoo is HUGE also. And they seem to have better results a lot of the time right now?

I have plenty of non-techy people telling me they are now using Yahoo, can't find shit on Google. I'm not in the US.

Find a Need, Fill a Need! - BigWeld

I was in the user trenches when Google took over from AV, and it was amazing. Altavista was awesome in that it organized the choas that was the emerging document library on the web. Nothing was online, then some stuff, then alot of new important stuff every day. The only way to know was to find it in AV. I spent hours per day searching.

When Google came along stuff popped out in the SERPs... far less searching, more reading, and excellent cross-linking in context. It was more awesome by far. It completely replaced AV for everything but warez/filez and pr0n (which got their own specialized SEs).

We all know Google was only awesome because it was new and it worked. Google exploited the way links reflected relevance and relationship (which they did at that time). That was new and that worked.

It is not new anymore, and it doesn't work very well anymore either. The growth we see now is based on adoption (Internet use increasing, users migrating away from the default page or AOL or MSN) and popularity (press, beta features, more press, FF default page, IPO, etc).

Google will fall to a search upstart? Not. They'll just lose search user market share (of an expanding market). That's destiny anyway. I think the real game is monetizing the users, not dominating search-as-we-define-it.

Google is currently a

Google is currently a household name. Those comparing what Google is doing and what happened with AltaVista many moons ago are forgetting that most people weren't online back then. AltaVista was NEVER a household name.

Thats as much a timing thing as anything. Five years ago, the internet was much younger, and the audience less abundant. Google happened to hit upon the search 'gold' at the same time the internet was truly growing (if one excuses the dotcom boom, which was as much about being speculative about the market as it was the market). Its entirely possible that Altavista would be a household name now if things hadn't gone the way they did, or they'd shared the same potential market Google, Yahoo and MSN now do (in my experience, pretty much all three are household names, though only one is synonymous with search)

I agree

I agree wibblewobble. But the fact is, that it is 2005 and Google is the one with the household name. They're not going to lose it any time soon.

I disagree

Quote:
But the fact is, that it is 2005 and Google is the one with the household name. They're not going to lose it any time soon.

Netscape, Prodigy, Alta Vista, Lycos, Excite, Web Crawler.

Internet names come and go quickly. Just look at the growth of Google over the years to see the impact a company can make in a short period of time. The difference in Internet and offline companies is that 6 months online can equate to years offline. You can build an idea, market it, and become a household name in less than a year.

Google is the most vulnerable of the big 3. Yahoo! has a huge user base that isn't going to leave anytime soon. MSN has the same along with a operating system that is certain to jam search down our throat. The minute someone can top Google and provide signifigantly better results, they are done.

Outside of search, Google is nothing. Every product they've put together outside of search sucks.

-Froogle is a crappy shopping system
-Google Talk is the worst instant messenger on the market
-GMail was just promoted poorly and still has some annoying features
-Local is way behind Yahoo!

Outside of search, Google is a failure. And when it comes to search, they aren't that far ahead of the others anymore. Outside of a snazzy PR department and some search technology that is being replicated by others, I fail to see why everyone thinks Google is going to conquer the world.

Netscape, Prodigy, Alta

Quote:
Netscape, Prodigy, Alta Vista, Lycos, Excite, Web Crawler.

Internet names come and go quickly.

In the past that was true. I just wonder if it is still true today, with so many more people online.

Definitely new stuff can come in fast and make a big splash. But deprogramming the minds of the average person (I'm thinking Americans here) is going to be a lot harder.

When it happened to AV and the others, it was mostly just a bunch of techies and academics and the like who were online. Not so today. Many more people to convince that Google does not equal search.

Outside of search, Google is

Outside of search, Google is nothing. Every product they've put together outside of search sucks.

yes but the assets and business processes they established to run their massive search engine are worth something. i think this is part of the rationale behind "network is the OS" and google trying to become the new OS -- a completely disruptive strategy that i think will allow them to completely revolutionize the OS industry and commoditize many of its leading participants (i.e. MSFT).

sucks for who?

a data mining company who gets people to sign up for services and provide them with lots of data voluntarily could never be described as "nothing" surely?

Services only have to be good enough to support the core business activity remember :)

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