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Search is Commodity Again

November 10th, 2005 · 2 Comments

Nicholas Carr writes:

Do a search on Google or MSN or Yahoo, and you’ll find little differentiation in the relevance of the results. Yes, if you’re a super-sophisticated searcher, you may be able to point to variations that you think are important, but casual searchers won’t notice any difference – and the vast, vast majority of searchers are casual searchers. There may be another great, proprietary breakthrough in internet search in the future, but for the moment Google has lost its lead. As for expanding search to more specialized areas, like 18th century manuscripts or academic working papers on quantum physics, that’s not going to make much of a difference to Joe and Jane Searcher, neither of whom gives a toss about musty books or egghead treatises.

Of course, Google knows this, as do its competitors. They’re all looking for ways to increase switching costs, or, as we used to say, make search sticky.

Maybe the basic internet search engine is fated to be a cheap commodity running behind the scenes. And maybe those who control the search function – and most of the related ad revenues – won’t be the guys running the engine but those who own the desktop or the portal (or whatever replaces the desktop or the portal).

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