Dethroning Google

This week it was announced that Google increased it's share of the search market to nearly 50%. Yahoo came in second at about 25%, also increasing share. MSN was third with only a 10% market share, and losing ground. The rest of the market is split between and a lot of small, struggling start-ups.

This market duopoly is based on search technology that uses complex algorithms to identify hierarchies of information useful in producing search results. The genius of the Google founders is that they figured out that site popularity based on links is the most effective way to search for information on the internet.

These algorithms, however, have a tough time determining the intent of many types of searches. Some words have vastly different meanings when used in different contexts. And combining words to enhance their meanings doesn't always do the trick. So entrepreneurs and investors continue to seek new ways to make search technologies more effective.

Several companies are trying an approach that involves the participation of people in the search process. Last year, Yahoo CEO Terry Semel was often seen promoting Yahoo Answers as a kind of enhanced search. I'd be surprised if he still is. The answers one gets on that site are normally all but useless. Google recently shut down their Google Answers site.

Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame may have a better solution. Mr. Wales announced an initiative this week to combine algorithm based search technology with his active community of contributors in order to deliver a better search. If I understand the process correctly, algorithms will sort the information in the way that Google and Yahoo technologies but, additionally, a contributor community will ensure the quality of sites. It's something like the "Diggification" of search.

Some believe that Wikipedia is well positioned to give Google a run for its money in the search sector. After all, Google is already highly dependent on Wikipedia for its search results. Enter any proper noun into Google and and it seems that half the time a Wikipedia page is the first result.

On the other hand, there is a whole commercial search industry out there producing products for business and science that might ultimately challenge Google. I can't pretend to understand the ins and outs of these various technologies, but I have heard reports that they are getting more and more effective in larger environments (like the internet).

Even if Wikipedia or commercial search doesn't become the Google killer, there is one company that could quite possibly destroy the emerging Google monopoly. And that is Google itself. The company continues to release products void of its core search technology. Many think the company risks losing focus, particularly if it starts considering itself more an advertising company than a search company.

In any case, with this last announcement about market share, various novices came out of the woodwork to sing the praises and declare the invincibility of Google. That is always an indication that the party won't go on forever.