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Google’s Vulnerabilities

March 5th, 2004 · No Comments

News.com has a commentary by Forrester’s Charlene Li:

Google will have a hard time fulfilling its mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” as competitors like Microsoft and Yahoo rev their search engines. This is because in its current incarnation, Google:

– Doesn’t provide as much value as portals.
– Tries to stretch a simple search box to fit all queries.
– Has few advantages when it comes to specialized search.
– Must invest heavily to stay out in front.

Forrester believes the company will be hard-pressed to live up to its highly anticipated IPO. This is because Google will have to fight three fronts in the upcoming search war–and will likely succeed at only one. In these three battles:

  • Microsoft will win in integrating structured, desktop search. In its next version of Windows–due out in late 2005–Microsoft will revamp desktop search by turning the existing file system into a database.

  • Yahoo will excel in creating the portal experience. Even if Google can overcome a deep-seated cultural focus on search, it lacks the experience to compete against the three portals.

  • Google’s forte and fortune will be locking in advertisers–and publishers. Google will become the dominant pay-for-performance ad network because it will deliver the biggest and best audience through its network of publishers.

  • John Battele differs:

    Here’s where I think this analysis misses a few key points. One, Google is already a portal, but a loosely joined one. It has Orkut, Groups, Blogger, and – rumored to be coming soon – email (well, they already have email – it’s in Orkut). If for some reason they have to move in that direction to compete, they can and they will.

    Second, Li bases much of her analysis on the interface presumption that Google will always take the “blank slate” approach to search – that is, the user comes to a blank box, with no context to guide the search results. While this is true now, it need not be in the future. Page was recently quoted saying “it takes five seconds to type in a zip code” – and I am sure the folks at Google can figure out a way to make sure that zip code (and any other personalized information) only has to be typed in once. In other words, if Google feels compelled to add personalization, they will (and if you’re an Orkut member, my guess is you’ll be able to personalize your search pretty darn soon).

    And lastly, Li assume that publishers will prefer Google over the portals, because the portals are competitive with publishers. In fact, publishers will go with whoever sends them profitable traffic, end of story. If Yahoo or AOL can do that, the publishers will work with them.

    Tags: Search Engines

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