An interesting post from Barry Schwartz in response to an article on Webmaster World got me thinking today -- has Google maxed out? If these numbers are accurate, it wouldn't surprise me to see a slow but steady decline in Google's search engine traffic.
According to Brett Tabke, this "1% difference is well within a margin of error." However, I am not as optimistic. When it comes to innovation in search technology, Google has been relatively static for a long time -- maybe users are getting bored?
Sure, they introduced Google Co-op and have been creating custom OneBox results for certain things like movie listings, but I don't think they are making enough (visible) innovation in search. Today Google is replaceable -- they don't offer anything users couldn't search without.
After dropping the mascot we all loved to hate, Ask.com has really stepped up though. They have been working hard on "Smart Answers" that help users narrow down what they are looking for. For example, a search for "dog" on Ask gives you a good idea of what the search engine does. You might also notice the Ask homepage is a lot sexier than Google's too -- the tools on the right are perfectly done and give the user a better sense of what is offered.
Google has the "OneBox", but Smart Answers seems to work better -- and best of all, they are above the ads. Ask has been steadily increasing its market share for a while now -- just this month it was up another .3% to 5.4%. That number isn't huge, but I believe it will continue in an upward direction until it becomes a major player in the top three.