That's an excellent point about the low switching costs. But there is also a kinsethic aspect to website use. Sometimes I go to search for something and I mean to use a different search engine, but I type GOOGLE anyway, because my fingers are so used to that. As the web becomes more voice and movement based, I think that last barrier will fade. Of course, in situations where point #4 holds true, it may overcome the kinsethic bias to type google.
I have a different take
Re: 1. Low Training Investment: I would not prefer to move away from Google unless the others too make it atleast as simple and preferably more mind numblingly-simple search experience for me than Google does.
Re: 2. I dont think a customer stays with a product just because she has invested a lot of time/effort customizing things. The time spent on customization is a sunk cost; so having a better alternative will definitely help her in the switch. Google actually had made it simple for the users to be able to make that swtich from other badly designed search sites we had prior to it.
The first three points are design choices that Google had pioneered to make the user experience superlative. Speed and good results made it far better.
But yes, I would not mind switching if the other search is better on atleast one of the 4 point you raised.
Over the past few years both Yahoo and Microsoft have caught up with Google in terms of end user search results. If you play with all three for a short period of time this becomes pretty clear.
Booth Yahoo and Microsoft have a long way to go in terms of creating an efficient advertising monetization engine. But they both have resources and can do it.
With that said, in my mind general search has become pretty much a commodity. When that happens lots of different things can create winners in the marketplace.
Coke does not win becuase it tastes better or has a better brand, it wins because it has better distribution. The same concept won the Microsoft/Netscape browser wars and I think the same will apply here.
Watch what these companies do in the context of it is all about distribution.
Me too competitors are definitely a threat. Competitors who inovate and fragment the market are even more of a threat. These are natural processes that occur in almost any market.
I can imagine searches that locate sports other topic specific information with relavent search choices tailored to the topic. The competitiors could possibly access information not available to Google, unique user settings, user notification and much more.
Nearly all information technology companies are at risk from from these threats, but Google has probably more exposure than anyone due to the ease of switching.
Yes, it is easy for anyone to switch from Google but my mom knows Google. How easy do you think it is easy for her to hear and use another search engine. It is the "good enough" problem in my mind. When Google came out it was significantly better than anything else. All other search engines just have minor improvements and nothing "holy shit" that makes me want to use something new.
I think that there in addition to result quality, branding plays a large roll in whether or not users switch from Google.
The extent to which people view the Google brand as a garauntee of quality and feel comfortable with it increases the 'cost' of switching or even experimenting with other search engines.
Switching from Google reader...
1) Export feeds to OPML file
2) Import into new reader
3) Start reading
4) When you have time learn shortcuts.. all I use right now is Go-All (GA), J (next) K(back). Go-Home (GH)
Google reader is not a big investment. They kept it simple, which makes it easy for competitors to copy.
So let me pose another question - why is Google a must have vs. a nice to have?
Nope. No way, until another SE do much more. MUCH more.
The reason people rushed to Google in the early days was because it was much much better than all the alternatives. If search was rated on a scale of 1-100 Google in 1998 was about 90 and the next best about 5. Even if MS and others are better now, they will only get to 92 or 93 so there won't be the wow factor over using Google and the majority of the population will stay put. Plus people don't like giving MS any more of the computer pie than it has already - witness Zune's flailing.
The threat to Google in the long term doesn't come from MS, it comes from a small company cracking local search. The search function on gmaps is absolutely terrible.
Completely 100% agreed. You guys are geniuses. I never realized until I read this article just how overvalued and overhyped GOOG is. I am selling my shares in the morning.
Thank you for the great analysis and for provoking such illuminating discussion!!!
I use firefox most of the times. I use the search box. If I do find that other search engines give better searches on a consistent basis (say , for my next 100 searches), then I would be likely to try that search.
I notice that google lets me to log into the google search so that they can personalize my search. I'd think that over time, they will get better at this. If indeed, by the time, the competitors reach parity, but if the personalized search makes google better, I might prefer google.
But, unlike ordinary users, I use some advanced google commands. I know that there is not much that prevents other search engines from making those advanced google searches compataible.
As a user, I don't particularly care for the ads that come (90% of the time). So, google's better ad engines don't quite make much of a difference to me.
So, where does that leave me ? I use google's other apps although not as much as google search.
Today, I use gmail, reader, search, docs, maps, blogspot and photos from google.
yahoo : mail, photos, delicious and maps
msn : hotmail
I'd like to think that as long as I continue to use multiple google apps, then I might be interested in using google search. If and when a competitor to google improves their search, then i might be likely to switch over my other apps as well! So, in a way, I believe that what
Brian said is kinda true but that likely won't happen in a month's time but I'd give the competition 6 years to slowly erode on google's base.
I used to use Altavista back in the day. Then I moved to Google. I completely expect another search engine to come in and displace google. Only a matter of time.
Funny, I recently mentioned the low switching cost typical of most Web applications (especially search) as a reason why Google will continue to do well if it sticks to its philosophy of doing one thing well rather than taking care of everything well enough not to make switching worthwhile (the Microsoft approach).
1. The elephant in the room is that a lot of people think Vista and IE7 threaten Google. I don't agree, for a couple of reasons, but especially, because IE7 and Vista defaults are overridden by a number of Google-friendly applications and hardware manufacturers.
2. Thanks to more open standards, one-stop solutions will become less important as opposed to a combination of different solutions. With its APIs, Google has embraced that new mentality, and I think their dependence on the popularity of the Search Engine is overrated. Examples: Context adds embedded on third party sites will continue to pay off however the user got there. Or: If I want to integrate my web application with a calendar application, Google will make it easy for me to do so, thus encouraging me to encourage my users to use their calendar.
Admittedly, if there were to be a huge user exodus in the course of, say, the next months, it would still be a catastrophe for them. However, as to a huge mass switch to MSN or Yahoo for Internet search in the near future, I just can't see it. And in the not so near future, I suspect Google will have continued to decrease its dependence on Internet search, so it won't hurt them so much.
Dharmesh, I'm shocked that you would write such worhless drivel!
I'm beginning to question as to whether or not I ought to continue reading Onstartups and Small Business 2.0 on a daily basis.
Sheamus: Ok, granted this is by far not my best work, but I think it's at least half a notch above worthless drivel.
Lets just call it drivel of questionable merit and move on.
We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming later this week.
Couple of thoughts:
1) The point of search isn't allegiance to any particular company, it's about a user finding the best results with the least effort & time. Anyone that does a broadly better job is likely to win. Furthermore, I would bet that 90%+ of Google users do not use any of the advanced features or have any clue how Google works. If typing "find what I want" gets better results on some new site, they'll change in a heartbeat.
To get really good results on Google you still have to type in "google-speak" and click through a bunch of results to find what you want. If someone else does better, they'll win.
It wasn't that long ago that Altavista was the best engine. And then came Google. I've not seen a real Google killer (anyone remember AllTheWeb.com?), but I've seen some promising ideas.
2) I think Google's real weakness is their revenue model. First of all, they are a one-trick pony -- it's all advertising dollars. If someone comes up with a better model, Google will lose large chunks of revenue and it will happen quickly.
Secondly, they've been amazingly reluctant to do anything meaningful to combat click-fraud. One of my former companies used to spend a big percentage of our advertising budget on online ads and the returns did not justify the expense. We believed that was at least partially due to click-fraud. When we questioned the numbers presented one month, the company concerned (not Google, but a big player) basically said "oops, yeah, those were wrong" and amended our bill. No proof. No denial. And NO indication that this wasn't the case with every other month's bill.
Click-fraud and online ads that don't generate adequate returns are HUGE problems and Google aren't addressing either in a meaningful way.
Anyone that thinks Dharmesh's post on this topic is drivel has his/her head waaaaay too far up their own Google...
It may well be true that there are low barriers to entry in desktop search, or even in search in general. But I don't think that possibility is relevant.
What's distinctive about Google is its technology for getting large amounts of data rapidly off large disk farms built out of cheap components. While in theory anyone else can do the same thing, in practice only Google manages it. It is exactly the technology needed to provide video on demand on a global scale. Google's value is that it has a sporting chance of owning the world's television infrastructure in a relatively few years.
"They just use the little search field which defaults to there and so far i have never met a firefox user who had the default changed to any other search engine"
You've met one now. I've never noticed that Google search bar in Firefox. I use Firefox daily. I have a special jump off page for all my favourite sites. Google, Ajaxian, OnStartups, etc all on it. I hit home then click Google. I know quite a few software developers that have taken the "jump off page" concept the way I do it.
snap.com is the best take on a search engine I've seen recently. Will be good when they finally get the screen previews sorted out.
The article is an interesting take on search, but I don't think its going to be an issue. There will be four top tier search engines (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Snap) and
the rest. Snap aren't there yet, but I think they will be (one of the founders was the guy that thought up the monetization of search results concept).
Most common Internet folks don't go looking for the cutting-edge search engine, they use the one their friends recommend, or simply the one that just works right most of the time. Google has been challenged on all aspects of search, index-size, correctness, customization, interface, and so on.
Secondly, the day *everybody* stops using Google as a reference point - thats the day I will stop using it as my personal search engine. I believe Google is like the *french metric system* or the *dewey decimal classification system*. That is a huge investment.
One example of where Google has been kept out of contention is China - and there too, Baidu has done what Google has done for the rest of the world.
Very interesting take. I agree with many of the points, but if a better search engine comes along you can bet Google with buy the technology before they get too powerful :)
Already made the switch away from Google. I find it entirely maddening that pretty much on a random basis I find UK entries topping the list. Especially when I am doing product selection research.
I have gone towww.mamma.com.
Practically the same content, and a relationship on the results that I used to get from Goggle a year ago.
The barrier to switching is reduced by the browsers and
their search-bars. Whatever is the default there, this is what
most people will use, and that's why IE7 tried to make Live the default.
Despite offering alternatives later on, how many non-techies do you think are changing the default search engine of IE7?
Certainly not worthless drivel. Agree that Google will go the way of many others in terms of price. Like others I used Altavista, Lycos, Yahoo and when Google recently blocked my employer and required image code verification I turned back to yahoo without noticing any issue.
Loved the article. what you have said is right. Its their simplicity which has attracted them this traffic and as you say the very same simplicity can let people go. But the fact is unless if the results arent satisfying or they continously give you bad doughnuts, one wont even think about switching, and in case someones switches, what you have told will "just happen".