How much would you pay to perform an Internet search?
Ask most people this question, and they'll respond indignantly: "Pay to search the Net? No way! It's free!"
Like so many things connected with the Internet, the availability of a variety of free search engines helps people forget the complexity, sophistication and cost of the technology that underlies them. It also encourages the average person to be somewhat fickle in using search engines. There's little brand loyalty here. If you hear about an engine that is faster and produces better results than the one you're now using, it costs you nothing to try it.
Consequently, the search engine business has become something of a king-of-the-hill game with a succession of royalty. The question for search engine companies has become whether they can create a feasible business model before being knocked off the throne. AltaVista, for example, though it invested heavily in technology, did not succeed in transforming its technological leadership into general portal status.
At the top of the heap is Google, and, predictably, it is being challenged--by upstarts Teoma and Wisenut. Either challenge may prove successful. And, even if neither company succeeds in dethroning Google, it's a safe bet that someone eventually will.
See news story:
Search start-ups seek Google's throne
From an intellectual point of view, search technology is among the more interesting problems connected to the Internet, and it has attracted the attention of some first-rate minds. However, as any student of business knows, history is rife with examples of superior technologies that were beaten in the marketplace by inferior ones. Many variables--marketing, timing, fashion and plain-old dumb luck--contribute to the success of any product, and Internet search engines are no exception.
(For a related commentary on consolidation in the site-search market, see Gartner.com.)
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