With its aggressive plans to offer local-search features and free e-mail, Google is giving notice that it will be a formidable competitor for Yahoo and the rest of the online-services industry.
Its curious why it took so long for Yahoo Inc. to discover that it was nurturing an adversary during all of the years that it hosted Google Inc.s search engine.
Long before Yahoo finally switched search engines in February,
Google was adding features to its own site designed to challenge Yahoos position as a popular home of Web searches, news, shopping and community groups.
Its hard to believe that Yahoo would have remained committed to the Google search engine for four years if it had realized early on that Google would not be content to remain quietly in the background as Yahoos search engine.
Now, Yahooand for that matter America Online Inc., the Microsoft network and the rest of the online services industryis dealing with an increasingly vigorous competitor that is going to battle tooth and nail for market share. Web surfers have nothing to lose in this battle as Yahoo, Google and the rest try to outdo each other by offering new online services to retain users loyalty.
Yahoo has gone to considerable pains to show that it wont miss Google search after making the switch to the Inktomi search engine, with its emphasis on product and technology Web searches. But when it comes to Web searches, Yahoo still lags far behind Google, which accounts for about 79 percent of U.S. search activity, according to Searchenginewatch.com. In comparison, Yahoo accounted for 27.7 percent even when Google was still its search engine.
Yahoo also revamped its news search by implementing an index
that combines content from 100 news partners and 7,000 Web sources, which it says will let users access a wider array of content. Its earlier news search gathered information from 4,500 Web sources as well as its direct news partners.
While this seems impressive on the face of it, one has to wonder whether users are able to discern a difference in the quality of the content they retrieve when faced with a veritable avalanche of information, especially when most of the information is coming from the same set of sources.
Local search has emerged as the new competitive battleground for Google and Yahoo. But it remains to be seen whether it will prove to be a major new channel for advertising revenue, even if it proves to be a boon to users.
Click here to read more about the challenges of developing local search.
At first glance, local search doesnt seem like such a new or innovative idea. People have been able to do yellow-pages searches of local businesses and attractions for years.
But new features such as Yahoos SmartView let users pull up maps highlighting the locations of businesses and attractions such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, sports arenas and bank ATMs. The maps display icons that users can click on to get additional information such as directions, prices, Web addresses, schedules or restaurant menus.
Google, Yahoo are pouring big money into local-search race.