Monday, 18 May 2009

A Lone Wolf

New search engine Wolfram Alpha launched in the UK recently. Clearly a lot of man hours have been invested into developing this tool but there are some fundamental failings. The biggest of which will also mark it's eventual downfall and generally marks the downfall of all new search engines, it's not as good as Google.

What has to be congratulated, is the amount of PR that Mr Wolfram obtained for his project. Despite the performance of the search engine, I would imagine that online PR would have been easier to obtain due to the desire from the online community for a rival to Google.

The world needs another search engine. Google recently suffered from a power outage that, despite being less than two hours long, seemed to cause pandamonium in the online world and the bright future of cloud computing was questioned for the first time.

Google is the greatest risk for e-commerce with businesses reliant on traffic from both paid and natural search. Granted, it is a cost effective means of promoting your website but even basic businesses accept that a reliance on one area of the supply chain represents considerable risk to stability.

Mr Wolfram can be comforted however by the fact that far bigger players have also failed when competing against the big G.

Ask tried to change perceptions by being the first search agency to feature multiple formats within their SERP's in what we now refer to colloquially as Universal Search. They have now brought back Jeeves with a view to gaining more brand noise.

Yahoo! continues to struggle against the tide. The much hyped Panama change to calculating paid search results failed to ignite revenues in this area of the business and rumours of a takeover by Microsoft continue to rumble on in the background.

MSN has recently launched Bing to try and save face from the failures of Live.com. To be honest, I'm not sure what they have gained here. It wasn't the brand that was the problem with Live, it was the results offered to the users and the speed in which it was capable of updating the index that caused problems.

Cuil launched in 2008 and claimed to have a larger index than any other search engine. Whilst this USP initially generated a lot of interest, once again the users quickly dropped off.

There are a lot more that could be added to this list as well.

There is a very limited window of opportunity for a new search engine to capture users on a permanent basis. If a user has a unsuccessful search using a new search engine, the chances are they will go straight back to Google. Even offering incentives to search in the form of cash rewards or charity donations has failed to change the balance of power. At the end of the day, people search online for the rightresults. When Google gives you the results you want, why go anywhere else?

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