Goodbye, Google?

Last week was not a good week for Google Incorporated, the company that has dominated Internet searching for several years.  For many people, Google is searching but it must be remembered that it has acquired other types of service, for example, the cellphone company Motorola, and engaged in other “blue-sky” research, such as the development of a driver-less car and digital spectacles.  Google Incorporated’s third-quarter earnings report provided evidence of a 20% drop in profits compared with last year and resulted in a corresponding drop in its share value of some 10% (about $24 billion).  Market analysts have commented that loss of advertising revenue is partly to blame — this arising because, in the move to mobile devices, there is evidence of resistance by the advertising industry to paying large amounts for an advertisement on a mobile platform.  Google is not the only Internet-related company to have seen a recent decline in income: Facebook is another example. Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser suggested that several other companies that are also principally dependent upon the receipt of advertising revenue could be similarly affected.  Further details can be found in an article by Hayley Peterson, Hugo Gye, Louise Boyle and Peter Campbell in the Daily Mail of 20 October 2012, where they ask the question, “Could Google disappear? (

What if it did happen?  There have been examples before of the rise and fall in popularity of search engines.  AltaVista, for example, was launched in 1995 and quickly attained a dominant position, largely because of it superior search algorithm and associated technology.  With this  combination, AltaVista became the first searchable, full-text, service of the visible Web.  Infoseek, founded in 1994, had a brief moment of glory, eventually being bought by the Walt Disney Company and its services subsumed into the network.  KartOO, a visual search engine founded in 2001, had an enthusiastic following for its radically-different approach of displaying search results in the form of a map; it closed in 2010.

There have been other people with new and challenging ideas that have sought to fill the gap and, in the world of search engine development, and no evidence that this will not happen again.  However, the warning for those in the information world whose occupation depends on searching, is that no one search engine should become the principal tool of work.  Experiment and have a variety of candidate search engines rather than rely upon one, however dominant it may seem to be.
In what may have been a prescient moment, Jiyan Wei provided a thoughtful comment on Google, “Google’s anatomy” (Search Engine Watch, 20 September 2012): “Just like a living person, Google is relying on all its organs to work if it is to transcend its roots as ‘just’ a search engine”.  If some of those organs fail, they may imperil the life of the body.

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