3aIT Blog

Google search open on a mobileThere's been some interesting developments in the internet search market of late, mostly to Microsoft's advantage. This includes people being enticed towards Bing thanks to its ChatGPT integration, and Samsung's recent suggestion that they may switch the default search to Bing on their devices.

I'll just Google it

Google has been the go-to search engine for nearly everyone for almost as long as it has existed. It usurped the old guard of Altavista, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves et al, and has never really had any serious competition since. This was assisted by the rise of their Chrome browser, which allowed them to integrate Google Search as the default search engine. Where they don't have direct control, they spend huge amounts of money with third parties to get them to use Google as the default search engine. The current deal with Samsung is reportedly worth $3.5 billion a year, and even that is dwarfed by the $20 billion they pay to Apple.

Mac with screen showing "Digital Marketing" graphicSo consciously or otherwise, you're very likely to be using Google search. Historically, the reason for people's Google preference has been because the results have been better. However, that's certainly not why Google spends so much trying to ensure you never go elsewhere. It's all about getting eyeballs on the ads that get shown, and therefore vast amounts of money into their bank account from the people that pay for that. They frequently tinker with how these ads are displayed. Sometimes it's not exactly clear that the first results that are returned are usually ads at all. Even when it is, you have to scroll some way to start seeing the real results for your search.

Seaching for a better life

It's in this context that the recent murmurations in the search industry become interesting. Justified or not, there is already a vague feeling amongst many users that Google search isn't as good as it used to be. Not enough yet to cause everyone to migrate to some other platform en-masse, but enough for Google to start getting a little worried.

The most eye catching development has been Microsoft's integration of ChatGPT technology into both its Bing search engine, and its Edge web browser. It was certainly no coincidence that Google very quickly announced its own AI called Bard. It appeared as though Microsoft caught them on the hop here, as the information that Bard gave out during the launch announcement was incorrect causing the company's share price to drop.

A pile of money next to a calculatorSamsung's announcement that it may switch its default search to Bing on their devices also caused another share price drop for Google. Of course, this potential change is very unlikely to be anything to do with returning better results for its users. It will be about the money that Microsoft might give them in return, and therefore also a bargaining chip with Google to up the amount they're paying when the contract is renewed.

Quality of results isn't the only thing that may cause people to look elsewhere. Fed up with Google slurping huge amounts of data about them via their search history, a small but slowly increasingly group of people are turning to privacy-focused alternatives like DuckDuckGo.

How do I Bing? Do I type it into Google?

However, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Google is still miles ahead of the competition in terms of usage. Change is visible on that graph for the first time in a while though. It's subtle, but the trend for Google is downwards, and Bing is upwards, almost hitting 10% for the first time now.

Woman holding magifying glass to her eyeThis will pose some interesting questions for businesses. Google's dominance has historically been so complete that a website's position on Google has been the be-all-and-end-all as far as search results are concerned. In 15 years doing this job, I don't think a single client has ever mentioned Bing to me. Most companies probably have no idea where their site ranks on Bing. If that starts to change, it may have an impact on the current default of only paying attention to Google's preferences on how a website should be put together.

So, while we're not predicting the demise of Google search any time soon, things are very rarely forever, especially in the technology world. The largest threat is seemingly Microsoft at the moment, but it's just as likely that an alternative appears in the next few years that harnesses AI in some eye-catching way and makes big waves quickly. At the very least, a little more competition can only be a good thing.