Search Beyond Google

There’s been a bunch of stories recently about how entrepreneurs and venture capitalists continue to focus on coming up with a better search engine at a time when Google dominates the landscape.

There’s lots of talk about vertical search and the semantic Web but, so far, little walk in terms of anyone coming up with a viable/useful alternative to Google.

As someone who’s happily willing to try anything new and different, I can’t remember the last time I used a search engine on a regular or even semi-regular basis other than Google. I’ve tried a bunch but nothing has jumped out to encourage me to jump off the Google bandwagon.

Maybe this is because Google has become the Kleenex/Xerox of the search world.

Maybe it’s because Google remains the best search engine around despite the time, money and effort being spent on new search projects.

Maybe the focus for many entrepreneurs/investors isn’t general search technology but search focused on a specific vertical (i.e. travel, business, music) or medium (i.e. photos, video).

Maybe Don Dodge is right when he suggests getting 1% of the search market is worth $1-billion, which suggests you don’t have to go head-to-head with Google to be wildly successful.

Have we come to a period in time when the search landscape has become boring compared to five or six years ago when there was plenty of choice (i.e. Excite, Lycos, Hotbot, AltaVista, etc.)? I realize Google is a great search engine but surely there have to be some crackerjack developers out there who can bring some zing back to the search party.

More: Read Write/Web highlights a story in the International Herald Tribune about the search market in South Korea where has 77% of the search market. This dominance is apparently due to a popular service called Knowledge iN, which is a user-generated question and answer application. Google ranks fourth in South Korea with only 1.7% market share. It may be time for Google to buy or partner with Naver. :)

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  • Anonymous

    Just a few comments about why I think things are the way they are in terms of the search landscape.

    1) Google is good at what they do, no doubt about it. They spend lots of money and hire the brightest PHDs in computer science to make their search better.

    2) They buy those people who do come up with good ideas in search and merge it into their own. Awhile back an University student created a search project where he was essentially scraping pages for preview and also came up with an algorithm for making results almost as accurate as Google. What happened to him? Google bought him out of college and now he works for them. Monopolistic? Somewhat.

    3) I think some of the good ideas for search that could even crack into the market would require a lot of capital up front for hardware, software, and the technical development to make it good enough for people’s consideration. I think that is also the reason the student in point number 2 decided to go to Google instead of running with his idea… he didn’t have the resources.

    4) All the developers that would develop the next search engine are currently off playing with all the fun APIs that Google is throwing out. Mashups are hot right now, so why reinvent the search engine wheel?

    Just a few ideas that I think together keep Google on top and people out of the search engine market.

  • Mark Evans

    Thanks for the insight – looks like Google is really tough to beat head on so I guess that’s why everyone’s so excited about vertical search.


  • Aidan Henry


    I think it is a question of time and hassle…

    In order to effectively utilize a vertical search engine, you must:

    1) Find one in the given area.
    2) Test it to ensure it does indeed provide better results than Google.
    3) Return when the right time comes (that’s if you can remember).

    Even then, Google has reached out into a myriad of verticals, indexing everything from blogs to videos to documents to patents, and the list goes on… Having said that, some vertical search engines have made some progress (notably Technorati).

    Don’t get me wrong, I think verticals will one day outmatch the big guns, but it will take time. I wrote a post outlining my thoughts on this process:

    Let me know your thoughts.