Technology Review has a cover story by Charles Ferguson:
Until now, competition in the search industry has been limited to the Web and has been conducted algorithm by algorithm, feature by feature, and site by site. This competition has resulted in a Google and Yahoo duopoly. If nothing were to change, the growth of Microsofts search business would only create a broader oligopoly, similar, perhaps, to those in other media markets. But the search industry will soon serve more than just a Web-based consumer market. It will also include an industrial market for enterprise software products and services, a mass market for personal productivity and communications software, and software and services for a sea of new consumer devices. Search tools will comb through not only Microsoft Office and PDF documents, but also e-mail, instant messages, music, and images; with the spread of voice recognition, Internet telephony, and broadband, it will also be possible to index and search telephone conversations, voice mail, and video files.
All these new search products and services will have to work with each other and with many other systems. This, in turn, will require standards.
The emergence of search standards would encourage tremendous growth and provide many benefits to users. But standardization would also introduce a new and destabilizing force into the industry. Instead of competing through incremental improvements in the quality and range of their search services, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo will be forced into a winner-take-all competition for control of industry standards. Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist at the firm of Draper Fisher Jurvetson in Menlo Park, CA, says, This is something of a holy war for Microsoft*, and one they cant bear to lose.
In short, the search industry is ready for an architecture war.
John Battelle adds:
Charles Ferguson writes a lengthy and clearly considered piece on Google for Tech Review, focusing on the Microsoft angle and concluding that the only way Google can truly “win” is by controlling a new architecture of computing through the time honored approach of proprietary APIs. Ferguson argues that the search wars are about to enter a major battle for control of standards which simplify the increasingly heterogeneous world of search, and in such a battle, Microsoft is far better suited.
I enjoyed reading this piece, and I am sure I will read it again and again, to more fully consider its argument. But I find myself disagreeing with the premise – why, in this world of the web, do we need to be bound by this winner takes all approach to the world? It works in a resource constrained world of homogenous PCs – once a consumer has purchased his Windows box, he’s not going to easily purchase an emerging competitor – but somehow, it really doesnt’ strike me as the right metaphor for a Web 2.0 world. I do agree that Google would be well served to make its service more of a platform, and that APIs are the way to go.