Stafford Masie, the former head of Google South Africa, believes Google's traditional business in search is shrinking and that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are to blame. Last week, Masie said: "Google is dying." That could have been my headline, but as you can see in the video above (audio only), courtesy of MyBroadband, he quickly explained where he was coming from.
It's not that Google is dying; it's just that users are using the search engine less, often choosing to use a social network instead. They aren't just using things like Facebook Questions, they're asking questions and posting comments on each other's statuses, in groups, to their followers. Overall, Internet users often refer to their social circles online rather than using Google search. Here's a transcription of Masie's observations:
The pie of search query volumes in the world – that business is shrinking. Why? Because people are going and doing search queries – search query volumes are moving towards social containers. They're moving away from static pages being searched and they're moving more towards dynamic real-time stream content. Like Twitter. Like Tumblr. Like Facebook. Those things have a better result because the penetration, the personalization associated with it, and the constant freshness of the content. So I believe that Google's search volume – the business Google is in on the search side – that business is shrinking. And they've got to do something about it.
Masie also points out how Apple's Siri on the iPhone 4S uses Google as a last resort. He then notes that Google may maintain its market share, but the overall number of queries Google takes is decreasing. I would argue that this may not necessarily be true (since the Internet's population is growing) but certainly a bigger and bigger portion of queries are being asked on social networks and other services, as opposed to just search.
It's not that traditional search is not valuable or that consumers aren't using it anymore, Masie just think it won't be around in the future. He argues that this is why Google is so insistent on winning at social, why it launched Google+, and why it is now augmenting its search results with its social network.
I don't think search will ever be replaced by social networks, but I do believe the search engine will decrease in importance. Instead, search and social will continue to gradually come closer and closer together.