04 junho 2009

Comments about the new Search Engine Wars

(Disclosure: if you search through my previous articles, you will see that the company I work for - FAST - was acquired by Microsoft last year, so now I'm a Microsoft employee. With that said, my comments are mostly from the point of view of someone that works in the enterprise search market and who has been using/following these Internet trends over the last 10 years. I have no contact whatsoever with the Bing team.)

Mitch Joel posted this article today about the new search engine wars, where he mentions Cuil, the idea of a "Google killer", and Microsoft's new decision engine called Bing, among other things.

Two quotes on his article caught my attention, which I'll reproduce here.

One from Seth Godin (from a post on his blog titled "The Next Google"):

"Bing, of course, stands for But It's Not Google. The problem, as far as I can tell, is that it is trying to be the next Google. And the challenge for Microsoft is that there already is a next Google. It's called Google. Google is not seen as broken by many people, and a hundred million dollars trying to persuade us that it is, is money poorly spent. In times of change, the rule is this: Don't try to be the 'next.' Instead, try to be the other, the changer, the new."

And another one from Michael Arrington (from a blog post on TechCrunch titled "Apparently Bing Is Something Of A Hit"):

"Whether Microsoft ultimately succeeds or not in 'winning' the search war, the competition is very good for the rest of the Internet. Google needs to be pushed to try innovating new things (not this). And search marketing competition will ensure that Google doesn't get too greedy. We don't need Microsoft to win, but we do need to avoid a world with just one search engine that matters. Maybe Microsoft can win that lesser war, at least."

After reading the article (and quotes), I felt compelled to express my view on the subject, and my comment became so big that it's practically a post, so I'll reproduce it here in case you haven't read it there:

My first point is that I completely agree with Michael Arrington that no matter what the end result is, this will be better for the rest of the Internet. Competition forces players (even the big ones), to make changes, to adapt or risk losing its position.

In regards to Seth Godin's post, it seems clear that he was commenting just on the product *announcement* for Bing, before having a look at the product itself. And without trying it out, you just can't judge its impact on the "search engine wars".

I also have to disagree with the statement that "Google is not seen as broken by many people".

Does Google have 73% of search market on the Internet? Yes.

Is it an awesome product that people use and like? Most definitely.

Is everybody happy with every single search that they do there? No, and you don't even have to use Microsoft's research to see that. Just take for example the hot trend of the moment: real time web (and search).

Before Twitter, people were happy with their Google results, but they knew that to get fresh results for some recent news, they would have to go to Google News or some newspaper's website. And people just accepted that as a fact.

But what happened after Twitter came along, and most of all, after search.twiter.com came along?

People realized that there was a way to search for trends and recent news almost as fast as they happened, and they were thrilled by that.

People got so thrilled with it that they started to question why their Google results couldn't have the same info. So they built their own solutions to address that need and after a while Google realized that they *must* do something about it too, as Larry Page just recentely said (when asked about Twitter):

"I have always thought we needed to index the web every second to allow real time search. At first, my team laughed and did not believe me. Now they know they have to do it. Not everybody needs sub-second indexing but people are getting pretty excited about realtime." (http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/larry_page_on_real_time_google_we_have_to_do_it.php)

This is just one example, but if one takes the time to check Microsoft's research on search user behavior, you can see that there is a need for better "information" (not only search results), for some queries. And that's what Microsoft is trying to tackle with this iniciative.

So, I believe that the in the end, this is better for users, better for the market.

Just my (long) 2 cents.


What is your take on this (be it as a user or as a professional in this market)?

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