Google, Billboards And The Threat Of The Side Streets

Here are a couple of snapshots showing off Internet Explorer’s new Visual Search capability.



I pulled both off of the IEBlog. Their most recent post explains how anyone can integrate Visual Search results by pointing the way to an Opensearch Description file.

What struck me about this feature is how truly dangerous it can be to the likes of Google (well, really just Google, there are no other relevant search engines out there). I use Google search all day long. I spend an average of 5-15 seconds on Google search results. Google, for me and for many that use it, is just a trajectory point. It’s a brief trip on the speedway before we jump off to the next exit: our real destination. Those few seconds are precious to Google. By rendering themselves indispensible to getting to where you want to go, they’ve assured millions (or billions) of travelers will use their highway.

Nick Carr put it nicely:

For Google, literally everything that happens on the Internet is a complement to its main business. The more things that people and companies do online, the more ads they see and the more money Google makes.

Google’s “main business” is search ads. Plain and simple. So long as you need to travel through Google’s highways, you’ll be barraged with billboards that make up Google’s bread and butter. Of course Google would love for you to stick around longer and rely on them for more than search. That’s why you have a wide array of Google services out there. But let’s not delude ourselves, Google nailed search and search is their cash cow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         But what if the highway went away? What if I

didn’t need to navigate through Google to see search results? What if the search experience – an experience that is very transient to begin with – became a desktop experience, or an edge-of-the-browser experience? In that world, where would the ads go? In short: what if we don’t need the highway anymore?

There’s an additional dimension to “do online” that I think Nick fails to cover. Today, “being online” pretty much means being inside your web browser (and a bit of instant messaging). But as the Internet evolves, and as we shift from the page-based paradigm to a packet-based paradigm (think Twitter and RSS) and as developers build more custom-tailored services that live outside of the browser, that highway becomes less relevant. What if I could just take the side streets? Without a highway, where will they put the billboards?

So how does Google keep you on the highway? Well, one way is to provide destinations of their own as mentioned above. Another way is to get on your desktop…somehow. Google Desktop has been around for awhile. Google Chrome (Google’s new browser) is another attempt to have a hand in dispersed content and services on the desktop. Google isn’t shy about staying involved in your online life, and they shouldn’t be.

Google may end up in an odd spot. They may find themselves fighting against a technology trend because it threatens their core business. That’s an awkward place for a technology company to be. Just ask Microsoft.

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