08 May Outflanking the Google, Yahoo, MSN juggernaut
The giant is under attack on multiple flanks. Google, the Internet utility and search-engine king, home to 64.1 percent of all U.S. searches in March 2007, according to Hitwise, is drawing out entrepreneurs and other search giants looking for strategies and niches where they can slay the giant. One intriguing possibility is evident in the buzz that Microsoft and Yahoo! are again talking about a merger or other sharing of capabilities, according to the Wall Street Journal.
From its founding nine years ago, to initial public offering on August 19, 2004, to becoming the world’s most visited site, Google has defined an industry and managed to stay on top of the heap with its sophisticated search algorithm and industry-leading keyword advertising programs. Google has grown into a global juggernaut with results displayed in 35 languages for over 380 million people around the world. The proof of their business model is seen in the 72.8 percent increase in sales in 2006, to $10.6 billion, and 110 percent increase in net income, to $3.08 billion, according to Hoover’s financial information.
Initial investors in the stock would have seen almost a five-fold increase in less than three years. Today, Google continues to vex the Internet space with its acquisition of web video phenomenon YouTube and most recently online advertising powerhouse DoubleClick.
This extraordinary success has led both leading and smaller entrepreneurial technology companies to seek innovative ways to gain a piece of the action by creating Google add-ons like Browster does, or generating competitive search offerings. Search enhancements are evolving in various ways, including the underlying technology that generates the results, new audio and facial recognition technology for video search enhancements, improved visual displays of search results, social tagging of content to capture “the wisdom of crowds,” the narrowing down of the search universe into specialized vertical content/smaller slices of the Internet universe, and through greater aggregation of search results from multiple search engines.
The amount of innovation bubbling forth in new service development promises to continue to refine online search to become an even more important consumer and business information utility.
The problem with search
Among the problems with search today is that results are based on keyword terms or phrases that often have multiple meanings when taken out of context of the searcher. Consumers often look for results to specific questions that are not always answered by the search results. Newer approaches promise a more personalized and relevant set of search results in response to individual search queries.
For some, this will mean agreeing to have your search history tracked so that a more refined set of personalized results can be displayed based on your search history. Google has been experimenting with this approach, but so have companies like Collarity and Prefound, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Other potential enhancements stem from what Tim Boerners Lee calls the semantic web or, as defined by the W3C, as “web content expressed in natural language, but also in a form that can be understood, interpreted and used by software agents – thus permitting them to find, share, and integrate information more easily.” ZoomInfo claims that it is the first semantic search engine, according to a recent article in Red Herring.
For those searching for visual, audio, or audio-visual content, search engines are struggling to properly index the immense quantity of content being uploaded to the Internet daily. Most of this content is being categorized by the tags and metadata that have been attached to the content as descriptors. Many of the video and photo sites allow other consumers to expand on the taxonomy of content with their own interpretation of what they’ve seen.
Technologies are in development to expand video content categorization by looking at what is being said through speech-recognition technology. Video search engines like Blinkx, Dabble, and TVEyes are at the forefront of categorizing these video results. An interesting application of this search technology is shown by Shadowtv that claims to have technology able to monitor television and online video to notify you of content you find interesting – a particular bonus for competitive intelligence or brand monitoring.
In photographic search engines, Riya is developing technology that looks for similar images across the web. They claim to be able to do facial recognition by comparing and matching photographs through their technology. Other visual search engines like Pixta, xcavator, etc. are reviewed at Pixcavator.
New community search engine Wikia Search (see PC World video Interview) from the founders of Wikipedia is scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter of the year. The concept is to combine search with the community features of user-editable search results made possible by using wiki technology.
Some other developments to keep your eye on are specialty search engines covering vertical interest areas or technologies. Examples of search engines following this path include the following:
Real estate – Nestoria (UK), Properazzi (Europe), Zillow (U.S.)
Automobiles – Automotive.
Airline fares – cFares.
Local classifieds – Oodle.
Podcasts – Podzinger.
Blogs – Technorati and Sphere.
Discussion forum tracking – BoardTracker.
People – Wink and Spock.
Other niche players are scrambling for action by focusing their search technologies into searching your desktop (Copernicus); providing an offline search packet of selected content (Webaroo); or focusing on mobile search (AskMeNow, Mogmo, or mInfo).
Other categories of search that Charles Knight at Read/Write Web is tracking and reporting on monthly in his Top 100 Alternative Search Engines include guided search; clustering search, Clusty and Quintura; meta search, Mamma and Dogpile; RSS search, Feedster; and shopping search. Knight encourages visitors using his list to explore the sites that he has tagged with an honorable mention.
Multitude of options
So what do all these developments mean for you and your business? One clear implication is that there are a multitude of options to Google, MSN, Yahoo!, AOL, and Ask, the major search engines. These options can help you find information, index and display your company information, and provide another advertising opportunity for your search engine marketing initiatives.
Previous articles by Paul Gibler
• Paul Gibler: On the case: Web lessons for connecting with customers
• Paul Gibler: Brand protection in the age of customer engagement
• Wireless wizardry coming to the small screen
• Paul Gibler: Podcasts – time, place, and player shifted media
• Paul Gibler: Virtual communities make online connections
• Paul Gibler: Lights, cameras, action: The state of online video
• Paul Gibler: Joining the wiki wacki world
• Paul Gibler: Would you like your music (and data) mashed?
• Paul Gibler: Cutting through the blog fog
• Paul Gibler: No RSS feed? You’re fired!
• Paul Gibler: Social computing in the Web 2.0 era
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