Google is a “one-trick pony” Those were the words of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in March of 2007 to students at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.
That one business by the end of 2007 was doing what it did best; dominating the search market. According to statistics compiled by comScore, Google’s market share was over 58% in the U.S. Internationally it’s 69%. The nearest competitor Yahoo sits at 23%. With those numbers it doesn’t look like much room for anybody else.
Enter Jimmy Wales. With the emergence of Web 2.0 changing the way we communicate, Wales is betting that the time is right for a search engine that like Wikipedia allows volunteers to collaborate online. Wales also hopes that the new WikiSearch “reduces the sort of bottleneck of two or three firms controlling the flow of search traffic.”
That’s going to be a tall order. As Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence told the Financial Post, “He’s aligning himself with the people of Wikipedia versus the Death Star that Google is”.
Wales has no illusion that he will overtake Google any time soon. Instead he believes that getting about 5% of the market will be enough to sustain Wiki Search.
While that number seems like a modest goal there are more than a few observers who think Wales could be out of his league this time. “I think he doesn’t really understand the scale of what Google has to handle”, says Danny Sullivan editor and chief of Search Engine Land. When you consider that Wiki Search will have somewhere between 50 to 100 million web pages indexed upon launch compared to the billions indexed by Google, Yahoo and MSN, you can see Sullivan’s point.
But Wales has a couple of things going for him.
1. Not Google
Shrewd business decisions combined with phenomenal growth in a relatively short period of time has made Google arguably the central player on the internet. This status has also created a sizable audience which has no interest in seeing Google become the only game in town. From Greg Sterling, “Any time a company becomes as successful or as dominant as Google has become, there’s a resistance or backlash and that creates hunger for alternative.”
Wales is also riding a wave that is in the process of changing the internet landscape. Social networking, media and bookmarking represent a fundamental shift in how information is communicated. The emergence of Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, video and blogging, among other things, guarantees there is no going backwards. New technology will only improve the interactivity between users which may give Wales more than his hoped for 5% market share.
No can predict the future. Many would be competitors have made a run at Google. Many are no longer in business. However the incredible success of Wikipedia, combined with anti Google backlash and the online social revolution may be putting Wales in a better position than any of his predecessors. conservatory roofs swansea