With almost monopolistic market position, 20 billion dollars of income every year, and almost 70% of the search market share in the US Google seems invincible and maybe the last company you would like to start competing with. Nevertheless, recently two new search engines were launched : Blekko and DuckDuckGo. They both currently own a tiny to none existing search share with comparison to Google or Bing but they have both displayed phenomenal growth (with DuckDuckGo crossing the 1 million searches/per day mark) and have introduced a fresh and innovative approach towards search – Blekko with its slashtags search and DuckDuckGo with its emphasize on privacy. In addition they both demonstrate a “back to basics” approach with the return to the early Google “10 blue links” format.
(Duck Duck Go back to basics approach)
I won’t discuss here what DDG and Blekko can do feature wise and give feedback on the relevancy of their results. First because I honestly recommend trying them both which will be much better than anything I can write about the experience of – well, trying them :-) But mostly because I want to discuss the reasons because of which in what seems to be a total Google domination two startups decide to jump into the pool.
1. Privacy – With Picasa,Google Web History, Google Docs,Gmail,YouTube,Chrome, Analytics, Android, Wallet, Reader, Google Plus and more – people feel that big G has too much information about them. In addition, currently there are almost no rules or laws that legislate how and where this data is stored and processed. Have you ever given a thought to where your personal data (emails, searches, clicked search results, visited sites, viewed videos, purchased products and more) is stored? For how long? Who has access to it? What is *exactly* stored? Can you ask for this data to be deleted? Last but not least, private user data has already leaked from Google’s systems either by accident or deliberately when Google has introduced Google Buzz and exposed user data (the 8.5 million $ lawsuit settlement followed.)
2. Relevancy – Google started showing flaws in the core factor that gave the company it’s leading market position in first place. The introduction of the PageRank algorithm in 1998-2000 was a significant and market changing milestone and in fact was the reason because of which people moved from using indexes for finding information online (such as DMOZ) to search engines. However, in recent years people have repeatedly reported deterioration in Google’s search results relevancy and quality. Content farms such as Mahalo and eHow dominated the search results for a lot of queries and threatened to leave the users with crippled, malformed and shallow machine processed results.
3. Misuse – Google aggressively uses it’s monopolistic market position to send more and more traffic to it’s own web properties – YouTube,Google Books,Google News,PPC results and others. More and more real estate is taken from the organic search results in favor of Google’s products and services. And we are yet to mention Google Plus.
4. Obscurity and middle finger attitude towards webmasters and site owners – if Google introduces best practices and guidelines in 2008-9 and then without warning the same guidelines and principles can be the cause of your site being penalized or totally removed from Google’s index (see the “GET parameters” case) – how can people continue to do business with them?