Many “Google Killer” search engines came with pomp and died in oblivion in last few years. Many entrepreneurs try to build a business by doing it better than the existing leader.
It works in the case where the existing leader is
- Either doing something fundamentally wrong and is the leader only because users don’t have a choice
- Or not serving some market segments, which a new player can penetrate with their specialized offering (For example amazon is doing most things right in e-commerce, but even with international shipping, it really isn’t serving Indian market. So, a well executed Indian e-commerce site works! It is “better” than Amazon for Indian users.)
But when an existing player has done something really well – that is built a great product and captured a huge market share leaving others far behind, then this incremental philosophy is not likely to work. With one feature here and some improvement there, it is difficult to make users switch. These players can not be defeated in the same game. These players get defeated only when the game totally changes.
Think of this. Google did not defeat Yahoo! by making a better portal. It defeated Yahoo! by changing the game from portal to search. People started using search as their starting point on the Internet journey, rather than using the portals. Microsoft did not defeat IBM by making a better mainframe. It played the new game of Personal Computers!
Similarly, I think trying to defeat Google in search game is pointless. It’s no longer one algorithm that makes them the leader! They have built a solid wall with a combination of several algorithmic improvements done over time, getting a lot of information from the huge, huge amount of data they have and not to forget the immense hardware and software infrastructure they have built to support their huge user base. It’d be interesting if my prophecy proves wrong, but trying to defeat Google in search is a non-starter for me.
Instead of these search challengers, what seems to be becoming a real threat to Google Search is social networking. Facebook to be more precise! At least from the content providers side, the reports are already surfacing that some of them are receiving more traffic from Facebook than from Google. Going forward, it may also be a threat to Google’s ad platform. Instead of relying on content, search queries and at best some user behaviour data gathered over time, social networking platform can rely on the direct demographic data. Immensely valuable to several marketers, who segment the market based on demographics. Whether or not the game will be totally changed remains to be seen. But the direction is clear.
Now, of course. You can not start a business like Facebook with the aim of killing Google. Even Google did not start with the aim of killing Microsoft or Yahoo! 🙂
So, the ultimate conclusion is rather un-sexy. Just start your own business. Don’t try to start something by trying to improve a very good product or service. Some day, you might just end up defeating it!