The most important thing that we all do in our online lives every day is search for stuff. Whether we're on tablets, smart phones, laptops or our work PCs, we all spend a lot of time searching. It drives billions of dollars in revenue for companies and it's how we all find the majority of our information, which we need to complete various tasks.
In recent years, Google only really had to take on the likes of Bing, Yahoo and other clones that were trying to replicate their business, and for the most part, they fought them off. However, the landscape is changing before us and even Google are having to make some pretty radical decisions. The web is becoming more social with people powering search results and providing the best information instead of search engines. To gain an understanding of these developments you only have to look at some of the technologies emerging to see how things are changing.
The newest kid on the block and quite possibly the sort of disruptive technology that Google hasn't had to really face in the last ten years. Every once in a while, something comes along that completely changes the game and this time, it could be Siri. All the early reviews indicate that it still has a lot of weaknesses, but as a glimpse of the future, it is massively exciting.
Looking two years into the future, you can see a day when data gets pulled in from the likes of review sites like Yelp or Foursquare, and Siri becomes your full time digital assistant. The big worry for Google is why would you scroll through a list of 20 text links when you had something as good as this?
Twitter Baked Into Browsers
Despite the fact that Twitter search has actually gone backwards in the last couple of years, they still have over one billion tweets made every five days to draw real-time information from. Even Google recognized the need to access that data when they originally did a deal with Twitter. But that deal has since lapsed and in truth, Twitter's best chance at making a fortune is figuring out their own search product. One interesting development is the latest release of Firefox released today which has a Twitter search built in. This is Google's home turf and it must worry them, especially if Twitter could ever sort their technology out to provide better results.
The biggest surprise is just how much Google are adapting with the changing landscape themselves. They were slow to catch onto the threat posed by Facebook, but their huge efforts with Google+ show that they know they have a problem on their hands long term. +1s can now be seen on billions of web pages, Youtube videos, in their adverts, on their blogs and Google are putting social at the very heart of what they do. Search results are also changing to include results based on what your friends have +1'd, and even if the big social project doesn't work out for Google, they are certainly not going out without a fight.
Facebook Slow To The Party
The big elephant in the room - and perhaps the company with the biggest potential to disrupt search in the long run, has to be Facebook. In just a few months, they will have a billion users, all of whom are pumping data in to their system and telling Facebook what they like, watch, listen to and do in the real world. It is surprising just how long it has taken Facebook to get decent search functionality and I would have expected them to crack it long before now. What can't be argued is the amount of data they have and it really does have to only be a matter of time before they actually nail search in some form.
Who knows how all this is going to come together. Although I paint a pretty grim picture for Google above - with multiple threats coming from all angles, I do think they have the smarts to position themselves well enough especially with the likes of Android. The last ten years have been easy though, compared to what they are about to face which is people finding their online data in new ways. The only good thing is as consumers, our lives are about to improve drastically as we get better search results in a faster and more efficient way. Exciting times!