Today, Google gets over 9.5 billion searches per month in the United States. Although search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing compete for a share of the market, they present no real threat to Google’s dominance. In reality, it is not other search engines that should have Google concerned. The search juggernaut faces a greater threat from a Cupertino, California company that has not even developed its own search engine: Apple.
Less than two decades ago, before Google was a verb, the only central location to access information was the library. Reading the newspaper or calling Moviefone was the only way to find out what time a movie was playing. The Weather Channel cable network was the only place that provided meteorological data.
In the mid-nineties, Web portals and Internet service providers, like AOL and Netscape, became the bazaars for the Internet. Before Google, while search was still in its infancy, Web users relied on these portals to aggregate content – content that was nearly impossible to find by the average person. In little over a decade, however, Google’s search technology has grown to dominate the Web experience. Presently, the search engine is the first place many users go to find information online.
The App Store
On July 10, 2008, Apple launched the App Store, stoking the accelerated adoption and mass appeal that the iPhone enjoys today. As of March of this year, the store had well over 3 billion downloads and over 150,000 apps available for download. Over 50 million iPhones have been sold, with another 50 million in sales expected by the end of 2011. And, by most estimates, sales of the iPad could easily reach 10 million in the coming 12 months.
Apple is undoubtedly one of the dominant players in the smart phone space. Now, without launching its own search engine, Apple could make the search engine antiquated. Apple, which has been categorized as a hardware company since it was founded, has evolved into one of the most important software firms in the world, and the app is its primary product.
On the iPhone – and now on the iPad – Apple apps have begun to replace Google search. Most people who use Google repeatedly search a small number of items – examples include weather, movies, games, and news. Apple apps have the effect of helping people organize the subjects of their most frequent searches by creating discrete applications informed by their common interests. These applications have become, in essence, their own search destinations.
The app experience is what Google wants to deliver. Generally, Google search produces countless pages of results, most of which are not helpful. Dictated by algorithms, these results generally require users to do most of the heavy lifting. Conversely, apps are tailored to a user’s preselected preferences. It is the user who downloads the app that gives him lyrics to the song he just heard. Effectively, the app is a personalized version of the search experience. In the next few years, the App Store will disintermediate Google from search results, threatening the search engine’s primacy on the Web.
What’s more, Apple will only improve the user’s experience at the App Store. Apple will make improvements to the way applications are designed, organized, distributed, and searched. These advances will only foster an increased rate of adoption. Apple’s future includes the certain popularity of the iPad, the iPhone’s availability on the Verizon Wireless network and an increasing number of wireless networks overseas. Additionally, available apps are expected to double, reaching 300,000 by the end of 2011. The modest impact Apple has on Google’s search to date does not take these eventualities into account.
Google Searches and Apple Apps
24/7 Wall St. reviewed Google search data to determine ten of the most popular categories the search engine is used to find in the United States. We then reviewed the Apple App Store for the most popular apps that produced comparable or superior results.
Social Media – Surprisingly, many search engine users do not bother to type the full URL of the social media site they use into their Internet browser. Instead, they reach the site by entering its name into Google. Conversely, when users download social media apps onto an iPhone and iPad, they can visit their profile page by simply tapping an icon. This effectively reduces traffic for Google searches of social media sites.
Among the most popular social media apps are:
- Facebook (Facebook.com) Free – The fact that Facebook is one of the most searched terms on Google (#1 search in the past year) illustrates that users employ the search engine as a portal to locate their most frequently visited sites. The adoption of the Facebook app, which provides the same experience as the Internet version, has certainly taken market share from Google as its single largest search.
- MySpace Mobile (Myspace.com) Free – While Facebook has replaced MySpace as the number one social media network, “myspace” remains the 4th most popular search since 2004.
- Echofon Tor Twitter (Naan Studios) Free – Twitter is the 29th most popular Google search in the past twelve months. Twitter was designed with mobile text communication in mind. Applications like Echofon give iPhone users most Twitter functions, all while circumventing Google by allowing the user to “tweet” directly to Twitter.