This week Google celebrates its 25 year-birthday and during that period the company has grown into a juggernaut that knows and stores everything about us, and is present everywhere. In a series of articles, we will discuss the power of Google, the success factors, the growing criticism and Google’s prospects for the coming years.
• Part 1 of this series answered the question of how Google grew into the dominant company it is today.
• Part 2 further discussed the invisible influence of Google.
Part 3 of this series will further explore why it is so difficult to dethrone Google.
Google dominates the Internet search market, with Bing and Yahoo in second and third place, trailing far behind. According to most studies, Google has about 90 percent of the global search market, and that number has been steadily rising for the past 20 years. Google is the default search engine in almost every browser, on almost every device. We don’t search the internet; we google it. And Google uses all its political power and technical and financial resources to keep it that way.
Building a search engine is already difficult, especially if you want to build one that is better than Google. Because if you want to beat Google, a better search engine is just the beginning. And it only gets harder from there. As evidenced by the demise of Neeva, the search engine that was better than Google, but threw in the towel after four years.
The advantage of the standard
One of the reasons for Google’s dominance is the well-known fact that people do not change their default settings. Whether it concerns privacy controls, system functions or apps, what is suggested as standard is almost always adopted. And the companies that set these standards benefit from this. They will do everything they can to stay there.
Google reportedly pays Apple as much as $15 billion a year to be the default search engine in Apple’s Safari browser. Google also pays Mozilla to be the primary search engine in the Firefox browser – reportedly more than $450 million per year. And Google has similar deals with other manufacturers and developers. Samsung briefly looked at terminating the deal with Google this year, but decided against it for several reasons, including ‘the impact on the extensive business relationships with Google’, in short, Google offers more money.
Android and Chrome
Google also benefits greatly from its other products. Android is the most popular mobile phone operating system in the world, with a market share of approximately 78 percent. Chrome is the most popular browser, with about 62 percent. And Google Search is the default search engine on these platforms.
For years, any company that wanted to make a phone or tablet running popular Google apps like Maps and YouTube had to sign a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA). This contract not only regulated how Google’s apps should be displayed, it also always put Search prominently in the foreground. And because users were reluctant to switch to a competing search engine, it became and becomes increasingly difficult to compete with Google.
‘Free’ journalism and study material
Google has been facilitating journalism for years, for example by donating money to journalistic projects or by making free tools available to journalists, so that journalists enter Google’s ecosystem unnoticed, because the research data that journalists collect is stored in Google’s database.
Schools and universities can also use Google’s software for free. As a result, the research data of scientists and students is stored by Google. In this way, Google has access to more and more data. Google has a wealth of data, which is growing because Google can link search data, location data and data about app usage from different devices. Google knows everything about its users, and can therefore target advertisements very accurately based on the preferences, location and search behavior of each user. This data collection is expanded and adjusted with every search query or click on an advertisement, so that the effectiveness of the advertisement only increases. This lead is unbridgeable for competitors and puts them at a great disadvantage. It will become increasingly difficult to overtake Google unless a completely new way of searching the web and handling data is found. But Google will of course try to prevent this as much as possible.