Perhaps one of the most lucrative prospects anyone will ever stand to earn ridiculous amounts of cash from is successfully monetizing the most essential wants/needs of our species. Since the birth of the Web, search has become one of those essential wants/needs, and monetizing it has earned companies billions upon billions of dollars. Naturally, the head honcho of search is Google, but how long will it be that way? What would it actually take to dethrone them as the search engine of choice? I see two primary components to that question: 1) what the majority of people want; and 2) what an alternate search engine stands to offer.
Using Bing as an example of a competing search engine, according to recent advertisements of theirs, Microsoft is claiming that people prefer Bing over Google nearly 2 to 1.
As one might expect, there's a choice selection of fine print to follow up with to get to the bottom of that "nearly 2 to 1" conclusion, but every time I see commercials like that, all I imagine are dollar signs in the eyes of the companies running such advertisements. Why? At the end of the day, the only reason Microsoft wants people to switch to Bing is the same reason Google will fight tooth and nail to retain their users: because of how much there is to profit from search. Sure, the Bing team is tasked with building a solid product that they believe in and genuinely feel is ready to be proven better than Google, but what is it really going to take for someone to topple Google?
Realistically, Google is a juggernaut and their services are more than enough for the average searcher (which is, to say, the majority). Because of that, companies like Microsoft have to first convince those people that there's a problem with Google, and then offer their search engine as the solution to that problem. But to do that, they have to appeal to as broad a base as they can. There's no way they could stand to gain more users by saying "well, here, specifically, are all the ways we're better than Google." If they can make everyone take away what's most relevant to them, then that's going to achieve the most satisfactory results.
But as I said, the majority of people are just fine with Google -- much in the sense that the majority of people are just fine with Coca-Cola. I mean, a Pepsi-Cola might come along one day, but the difference is that a Google alternative will likely never be as sweet as the difference between Coke and Pepsi.
Let me step back for a moment just to clarify that, while I thoroughly enjoy Google's services, this post is in no way a brand-loyal offering. I use a multitude of search engines, but only because my search needs extend FAR beyond those of the typical searcher. Instead of looking for movie times, weather, or random info here and there, I'm looking for information residing on FTPs, ranges of sites that are all hosted on the same IP address, unprotected devices connected to the Internet, etc. (And delving back into the soft drink analogy, I happen to prefer Pepsi, but I also enjoy Coke and plenty of other tasty alternatives.)
Let's try this: Take a moment and ask yourself what you want from another search engine that Google doesn't already offer. Then, for all the things you come up with (if any), are you sure Google doesn't already offer them within their vast line of search offerings? Maybe you want better search results, but is it a matter of Google not being good enough, or could you stand to learn just a fraction more about power searching so as to quickly and simply refine your search results?
Whatever the case may be for you, for most people, their search needs are more than covered by Google. And at this point, Google is such a household name with search that the uphill battle for anyone offering an alternative is going to be quite arduous. But the search ecosystem is so much larger than that, too! There are the end users, and then there are the advertisers; and right now, Google is really the only search engine any company cares to market within because that's where all the search traffic is.
So, while Google has the lion's share of searchers and advertisers, and so long as the search engine paradigm exists as it is today (and will in the foreseeable future), Google will remain the top dog. But even more than that, I legitimately don't believe a company will come along and offer an index as extensive as Google's for quite a while -- at least, not enough to convert the majority of average searchers who can already find what they're looking for. And to that end, the greater point I'm trying to make is that it's not even about someone coming along and offering better search results, a better UI, or otherwise; it's about someone coming along and convincing practically everyone that to find the answers they seek, they need to do something other than "Google it."
Do you think competition will ever come along to knock Google off its throne? If so, what do you think would do it: better search results, a better user experience, privacy concerns, reputation issues, or otherwise? Share your thoughts in the comments below!