So what’s Google so freaked out about? Recently posted on the official Google blog, regarding the Microsoft’s proposed buyout of Yahoo!:
Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors’ email, IM, and web-based services?
Google’s incredible success to date teeters on a single, easily-overlooked prerequisite: that we continue to travel around the Internet through a web browser. Without that trip through the Web Browser Highway, Google’s billboards that dot that highway would never be seen.
If you can envision an operating system that neatly taps into various web services – email, instant messaging, photo sharing, collaborative documents and spreadsheets – without requiring a web browser, you can start to sense why Google would be freaked out. An argument can easily be made that we don’t need to make that trip through the web browser to get at all these great services. Hell, an argument can be made that the web browser is a less-than-optimal way of doing things. That the services should and eventually will live on your desktop.
If you combine the massive population that Yahoo! enjoys with the power and immediacy of pre-installed, click-and-go tools right on the desktop, Google’s plans look a lot murkier. It comes down to that critical entry point. Today, Google got its hooks in because the browser and URL box was the great democratizer. You weren’t competing for prime shelf space on the desktop. It was inevitable that Microsoft would lean back on the OS to more deeply hook into services that we typically access through a browser.
And what of search? Forget all these fringe services. Search is Google’s bread and butter. It’s where something like 98% of their revenue comes from. Well, the thing with search is that its really just a means to an end. We spend an average of, oh I don’t know, 10 seconds on a search results page? Then we quickly move onto the valued destination we were seeking. Still, it’s that brief trip down the Google Highway that Google cares about. That’s where we stare at Google’s billboards. If you threaten the need to take that trip (which incidentally happens solely in a web browser today), you threaten Google’s existence.
Wouldn’t it be nice to hit a simple key combination in Windows (Windows key?) and just type what we’re looking for and see the results streamlined right there on the desktop? Or how about Apple’s Spotlight feature? Just open up Spotlight and search the Web. The browser only comes into play after I’ve selected the destination I want to go to. If you stop and think about it, the hop we make through Google is useless. Google is just a utility that gets us to where we want to go. We don’t need it in the browser. In fact, I’d prefer it not even be in the browser but rather maintain its own modal state outside.
Either now or later, Google is inevitably going to have to deal with Microsoft. I’m guessing something like 90% of all search originates on a Microsoft operating system. It is only natural (or wily, depending on your allegiance) and in many ways more ideal (or more sinister, again depending on allegiance) to start to deliver these services in a more seamless, integrated manner.
In many ways, Google has every right to be concerned. A world without browser-based search results – or browser-based anything for that matter – is a pretty scary place.