1. Success is a threat to Google. If Google is overwhelmed with so many customers it is likely to struggle in 2 respects: Preserving the quality of its service as well as its capacity to improve services. The good news is that it’s currently making so much money now that it does not have a problem providing resources. But that financial support will disappear if 2 things happen:
a. Better search tool: A competitor offering a better search experience is one thing. But Google has been smart by developing stickiness to its brand. People like me rely on Google for search and a quality online ISP. It has very low downtime. For this reason I think a competing search engine technology is likely to face a merger.
b. Merger: I actually expect a better search engine tool to emerge and Yahoo is likely to emerge as the buyer. Why? It’s the only Google competitor with the cash and market presence to make search a value, given the value added services involved.
2. Bureaucratic cultures tend to engross most large companies. Google has just 20,000 employees, but the more it grows, its likely to face similar cultural problems.
3. Tide change: There is also the prospect of a significant change in the way we do business and communicate with friends that Google does not anticipate.
There is currently a number of competitors vying to displace Google. One of them is ‘Cuil’, a start-up set up by former Google employees led by Anna Patterson. Cuil claims to have developed a more comprehensive and efficient way of scouring the Internet. They claim that their search engine indexes 120 billion Web pages a day, that’s three times more than Google's index. These former ex-Google employees claim that Google has done precious little to improve its search engine in the last decade. Google stopped publicly quantifying its indexing capacity 3 years ago when the catalogue clocked 8.2 billion Web pages. Could it be that Google is avoiding such benchmarking to avoid unfavourable comparisons. I would suggest so, as this would also suggest its the reason why they diversified into add-on solutions. Not a bad solutions, but it ignores the fact that Yahoo + Cuil are potentially a dangerous alliance for Google. It would also explain why Google licensed its technology to Yahoo. We might actually see Cuil licence its search algorithm to both companies. This would of course be best for Cuil, but bad for Yahoo since it would still be way behind in terms of packaging user features. Mind you there are a lot of Google user features that are of little interest. Yahoo by comparison offers better finance services, though Google is quickly catching up.
Google stated that it regularly scans through 1 trillion unique Web links, but I guess that could be ‘camouflage’ unless you define just how frequent is ‘regularly’. Google also stated it doesn't index all pages because a lot of pages are redundant or similar in content, and inclusion would only diminish the quality of its search results. That too seems like ‘camouflage’ since such pages would just get a lower ranking according to the algorithm.
Cuil believes it will out-perform Google in search for several reasons:
1. Cuil's algorithm analyses the actual content of a page rather than mimicking Google's method of ranking the quantity and quality of links to the Web site.
2. Cuil might provide users with a more visually attractive interface than Google by offering a magazine-like format instead of just a listing of Web links. Cuil's results will be displayed with photos spread horizontally across the page and sidebars that can be clicked on to learn more about topics related to the original search request.
3. Cuil is promising not to retain information about its users' search histories or search patterns.
The problem with Cuil is that its not a very good search tool. I performed a search on my website name 'sheldonthinks' and www.sheldonthinks.com' does not even rank despite a very specific search. By comparison, Google places my we portal first and my shopping cart 2nd. I dont think a writer could ask for more, and I would think the same is true for users. Cuil instead showed a lot of forums I have signed up as a member. The implication is that people only strike my website indirectly. This is bad for users, but I'm sure advertisers would like this if they dont mind not having many users. I guess if the advertising costs are appropriate, does it not make a powerful new way to reach new customers. In this sense I actually see Cuil as a niche player for advertisers trying to generate marginal increases in sales. Now this is not a bad thing if you are looking for some of the web pages that Google gives low ranking to. Same deal for advertisers. There is also the potential for Cuil to tweak their algorithm, though I dare say its not that easy.
Other start-ups that have sought to challenge Google include Teoma (the technology drivers behind www.Ask.com), Vivisimo, Snap, Mahalo and Powerset (acquired by Microsoft Corp in July 2008). Clearly Yahoo must be interested in acquiring Cuil, or at least in licensing its algorithm. Google has steadily been increasing its share of the search market, such that in May’08, Google held a 62% share of the U.S. search market, followed by Yahoo (21%) and Microsoft (8.5%) according to comScore Inc. As long as Google can claim or have users believe its search is better or comparative it seems unlikely that Google will lose market share. It has developed very good brand recognition, but it has also done a very good job to develop ‘sticky’ customer features, though there is room for improvement.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com