The search engine market has metastastized into an online media market. The bar set by the world’s largest search engine now includes a heckuva lot more than fancy algorithms running in a data center.
So how much is a good piece of Google-killing software worth?
Today there’s news that a company called Powerset is trying to raise $10M and boasting that its search technology is better than Google’s. According to VentureBeat, the company is trying to hype themselves into a $20M valuation, using the promise of Google-killing tech as a lure.
But here’s the rub: Even if your tech is better, you can’t compete with Google just because you have a great search engine. At this point, the search engine market has metastasized into an online media market. The bar set by the world’s largest search engine now includes a heckuva lot more than fancy algorithms running in a data center. (Update: For much, much more on Powerset’s “natural language” abilities, see Danny’s SEW rant. Wow. The depth of his knowledge about search engines scares me.)
Today you not only have to have great technology for online searches, you also need to compete in offline media markets as well. Not to mention you need partners (large and small). Below, ten reasons Google has competitive advantages not easily equalled or surpassed:
- Huge, Distributed Infrastructure — The obvious advantage is Google’s huge infrastructure, which is distributed across 450,000+ servers across the globe. By distributing its infrastructure, Google decreases router and switch delays and delivers faster performance to its worldwide users. Not only is search faster, but products work better too.
- Products that help Google learn — More user data = better personalization = better targeted advertising. It’s widely known that Google’s products beyond search, news and images, aren’t used by huge numbers of people. But that’s not really the point. Even if only a few tens of thousands of people use online apps like Reader or Spreadsheets, Google still gets an inside look at how people use office tools online. Not only that, Google sees what types of data people care about.
- Dark fiber and mobile strategy — Some folks say Google’s buying dark fiber as part of their forward-thinking IPv6 strategy. After all, it’s well-known Google has their eyes set on the mobile marketplace.
- Connections — Via board seats and partnerships, Google is connected to all the Silicon Valley power players. The latest connection came when CEO Eric Schmidt’s earned a seat on Apple’s board. Don’t forget they’ve also got a 100+ ad sales team in New York working on deals every day, and they’re already connected to major networks like CBS and big media companies like Viacom.
- Ubiquitous Brand — Google’s brand is one of the best-known in the world, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the company’s name is a verb. When a company hooks up with Google, they know that partnership is going to make headlines.
- Partnerships with distributors — Google is quickly coralling the biggest distribution avenues for its software. A great example is Intuit. Google is now embedded in the world’s most successful desktop finance software. That partnership will help them not only get potential customers using the Web, but also get them hooked on AdWords. Other big distro partners include Dell, Mozilla, Adobe, Symantec and DivX.
- Huge, long tail customer base — Google has made a lot of little people very happy.
- Global reach — Google has 8,000 employees in offices distributed around the world. Not only do those employees help run the data centers, they also interface with local populations and figure out how Google’s apps can and should be tailored to different cultures and languages.
- Inside the enterprise — Google’s enterprise tools don’t stop at the Mini. The Search Appliance line also includes the Google Appliance GB-1001, which can handle up to a million documents; and the GB-5005 and GB-8008, which, when delivered in the form of multiple servers in a rack and working together as a Google File System cluster, can handle many millions of documents. And let’s not forget about the OneBox API. Google has also made several deals with companies like BearingPoint.
and Brin’sand Larry’s Plane — It’s a monster, man.
I’m sure there are more reasons. Leave ’em in the comments. Or go check out Mark Evans’ brief look at other companies trying to compete with Google.