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May, 2006

The Search Non-Revolution

Microsoft's newest version of Internet Explorer will finally include a built in search box (like all the other browsers out there). Unlike the other browsers, however, IE will default to MSN not Google. Here's a description of the IE7 situation from a New York Times article (via Michael Gartenberg):

The new browser includes a search box in the upper-right corner that is typically set up to send users to Microsoft's MSN search service. Google contends that this puts Microsoft in a position to unfairly grab Web traffic and advertising dollars from its competitors. The move, Google claims, limits consumer choice and is reminiscent of the tactics that got Microsoft into antitrust trouble in the late 1990's.

Everyone knows Google, everyone uses the search engine, but how strong is their position? If every IE user in the world used MSN for search, that would probably put a pretty big dent in Google's market share (considering IE accounts for over 80 percent of the browser market). Yeah, Google's got lots of other stuff going on, but the core of their company is the engine and the marketing they sell as a result of it. Without that, where would they be? More interesting, to me, though, is that since Google revolutionized search with pagerank, there have not really been any serious advancements. It's been the other engines catching up and then everyone just scurrying for position. To be honest I don't even know if Google's the best engine out there since its the only one I ever use.

The whole issue was summed up well in an interview I read with Alex Galloway. "At the end of the day Google is still a modern answer to a postmodern question: it is a massive, centralized hub enlisted to parse and catalog the universe of human endeavor." It's an idea I've gone back and forth with, and search is certainly a good way of finding information in a giant database. But with a structure as unique as the internet, how is it possible that there's only one point of entry?

Update (3/9/06): Josh Porter wrote a little about this topic in an article titled "Google and Microsoft Understand the Power of the Default".

May 9, 2006
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