Monday, March 13, 2006

On commoditisation, gear indicators, and web search - part 2

In a previous post, I was talking about the potential effects of commoditisation of automobiles. This post and subsequent posts are going to be about the commoditisation of web search, its signs, implications, reactions, and opportunities.

Roughly speaking, commoditisation happens when products are undifferentiated. That said, will people agree that web search is so? Not many. But, that is the truth. At their cores, search engines are approaching comparable levels of quality (not necessarily identical results). It will be hard to believe, but this has been verified empirically. There will soon be a time when MSN catches up with the index sizes of Google and Yahoo! So what accounts for the unequal split of the pie? The reasons are manifold and complex. Brand loyalty, simple inertia, denial or unwillingness to compare, better UI, faster download, default homepage, distribution channels like toolbars, messenger clients, ISPs, PC vendors etc., are a few obvious factors.

So, what are these companies doing about it. These companies may not fully acknowledge this, but, have already started differentiating their services with features extraneous to basic query-relevance. Google Suggest, Yahoo! Mindset, and MSN Query Builder are just a few examples from Yahoo! Next, Google labs, and MSN. Besides feature differentiation, these companies have started personalisation to increase loyalty. MyWeb, personalized homepage, A9 etc., show the trend.

More on further implications and what it has in store for "commoners" like you and me in subsequent posts.

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