eBay Experiment Demonstrates Frailty Of Google's Monopoly

from the switch dept

For the past several days, Larry Dignan has been seeing what it's like to live without Google. Each day, he's been trying different, lesser-known search engines to see how they stack up. As he points out, this is essentially what eBay decided to do when it announced that it would cease Adwords spending on Google in the US market, at least for the time being. While the move may have been linked to Google's planned "protest" at an eBay conference (it's now been canceled), it should still be an interesting and worthwhile experiment for eBay to see what life without Google is like. At the moment, analysts expect eBay to take some sort of business hit, although it's not clear how big it will prove to be. If it's too big, you can expect eBay to quietly scurry back to Google. That being said, both Dignan's and eBay's experiment demonstrate something important about Google's competitive standing. As powerful as it is, there's still very little lock in. If an individual or company wants to stop doing business with Google this very instant, they can. People stick with Google, not because it's hard to switch away, but because they don't see any better alternatives. Compare this to Microsoft during its heyday (or even now). It would be virtually impossible for a business that ran Windows to try going without Microsoft for a week or a quarter, just as a business experiment. This means that even when there are superior alternatives to Microsoft products, it's hard to get people to switch to them -- a fact that has underpinned many of the legal challenges against the company. These Google-free experiments should hearten anyone that fears the company's power or thinks we've just traded one monopoly for another. When a superior alternative does arise, it won't be hard for anyone to switch.
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  1. identicon
    ChronoFish, 14 Jun 2007 @ 5:08pm

    Doesn't matter what the end results are....

    Google obviously is the de-facto search engine, and so it is doubtful that this act scares them.

    What should scare them is what US West (aka Quest) learned 20 years ago. "20% of their customers would leave simply if they had a choice". This is not from dissatisfaction, or issues with the company. That many would be willing to leave "just cause".

    In Google's World, they are very much like MS. Customers have had a choice to stay or leave since their inception. Yet there hasn't been any "real" choice (in terms of a desktop replacement OS). MS is however just now realizing how fragile their Monopoly is. With Linux popularity growing, Ubuntu putting on a tremendous show for a Linux Desktop, Apple just inches away from making their OSX wintel compatible, and the threat of Web Apps becoming very real - MS is realizing that locked in customers have no loyalty.

    Google has enjoyed tremendous user loyalty from the start - partially because they were the little guy, and continued to be perceived as the little guy even after they were a multi-billion dollar company.

    But the Google that was is not the Google that is. The two companies are vastly different and the "Do No Evil" company is now driven by profit and market control. (Google Marketing is broken down into small 12 person work-groups and each group is expected to bring in more money than most small companies dream of).

    There are options to the Google search engine in the same way that there were options to Microsoft Windows XP in 2000 - they existed but they weren't desirable.

    Google should hear the cry and put some brain power into solving the problem. It is true that they won't be all things to all people. But it is also true that they are not likely to gain much market share because they already dominate it so much. They only have one way to go grow - down.

    The best they can be hopeful for is that the market itself continues to grow - which lucky for them is growing faster than projected.


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