Comments: Irreversibly Google

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This is completely wrong. Google's advantage is at *most* 1% engineering/secret sauce ... the other 99% is brand (with perhaps little bits attributable to speed of page rendering and the design of results page).

Yahoo's are not noticeably better or worse and MSN's are only a tiny bit worse now. I switched to Yahoo! search exclusively shortly after starting to work at Yahoo!. For a few months, I ended up doing the same search on Google immediately after a Yahoo! search (just to make sure I wasn't missing something) but eventually found that I didn't feel that need anymore.

Very occasionally Google produces better results for a given query, but Yahoo! spam filtering is marginally better so the quality is more or less even. That the overall quality is even is the received wisdom in the industry, backed up by blind tests, and freely admitted by Googlers (even Peter Norvig, who headed search quality for Google until recently).

But the really interesting thing is how little quality matters to anyone. It is *all* about brand -- just like Crest/Colgate or Coke/Pepsi, with the exception that even people who are savvy enough to understand marketing's general influence on their behavior and preferences can't see it in the case of Google.

When you write that Yahoo! and MS "just can not get results nearly as good as Google's", you are looking through brand-colored glasses. What Google's competitors needs is not a "brand new algorithm" but a way to shift people's preference away from what is perhaps the most successful brand in history.

Abe,

Stewart is right. Google had a great story about why their technology was better: page-rank. That story convinced tech-heads and sounded good to novices. But the real value was in making the Internet simple.

They distilled the crazy, complex, untamed jungle of the World Wide Web into a single query box that seemed to work like magic. A simple home page with simple, effective results.

Yahoo! in contrast turned their home page into a cacophony of services, a visual tumult that shouted at users about the complexity and wonder of the Internet. In today's information-overload world, Google's brand, implicitly built around the promise of simplicity, was more powerful, more credible, and more effective than anything else in the market.

Fortunately for Google's challengers, Google has never formalized this brand focus and is systematically destroying it with its nearly unchecked forays into wildly diverse and unsimple services like Google Finance, Google SideBar, and YouTube. Even though they now have a freeze on new product releases--someone realized there was a problem with market overload--they lack a unifying vision of where to go from here, leaving their actions hopelessly out of sync with their core brand. Google today is anything but simple.

Abe might be on to something though, if Wikipedia is to be believed:

Ask Jeeves had dropped below Google, MSN, and Yahoo! in the size of their userbase. However, because Ask.com was slow to index some new webpages, Ask.com did not suffer the onslaught of computer-generated linkspam results that initally flooded Google Search, MSN Search, and Yahoo! Search and buried significant webpages that Ask Jeeves (or Ask.com) could still find.

I'm not inclined to think that this same set of circumstances exists today, but I think the compelling aspect of search that Abe touches on is the notion of history.

I'd be curious to know if Google tracks statistics such as how frequently links are added to particular sites or the rate at which new sites appear and uses them in its calculations when returning results.

Then again, I just watched Seth Godin's presentation to Google where he proposes that marketing is more important than the technology. Technology is of course important, but it's possible to have the best technology and fail as a business.

Dave,

Thanks to the link to Seth's presentation. Nice to have the reference for the inability of people to distinguish between Google and Yahoo! results when formatted identically.

Seth does, however, miss the opportunity to highlight the need for Google to focus however.

You can literally see one of the continuing reasons for Google's success. Compare the front end of Google and other search engines:
http://www.google.com/
http://www.yahoo.com/
http://www.msn.com/
http://about.com/
etc.
Where would you rather search?
I have similar feelings about many of their "beta" products, hence my email address.

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