Seeking Mobile Magic as Search Engine Use Shrinks


Short of a cataclysmic event (such as discovering a planet with little aliens who deliver your queries via cute bubbles out of their mouths) nothing will loosen Google’s stranglehold of the search engine market. However, the firm’s mammoth US market share was down slightly last month, according to figures released by Experian Hitwise earlier this week, and confirmed by comScore. All very heartening for Google’s rivals, until you factor in the news that search engine use in the US is slowing down. More about that, in a minute. Figures first.

Microsoft’s attempt to grab a hold of the search market is paying off, as Bing has gone up for the tenth month in succession, by 0.2%. The other two, Yahoo and Ask, were up 0.1% each, but with Google’s share at 65.1%, there is little hope of its rivals besting that.

So, back to the leveling out of search engine use. Annual growth rates, according to comScore qSearch, aredown, from 33.1% in March 2009, to 7.6% this year. Part of this is to do with the amount of searches a person can physically do in a day, but it’s also probably got something to do with the fact that, while mobile Internet use is increasing, the search UI just doesn’t cut it on a smaller device. The screen is too small, and typing in a search term is just too fiddly.

What will change the game, perhaps, will be a completely touchscreen way of searching, perhaps with voice-recognition, or picture-based software. The former is pretty straightforward, but the latter opens up reams of possibilities–and the scope for confusion could be endless. Google has already started the ball rolling with its Android-only Goggles, which allows you to use the camera on your phone to search the web, but that’s really only good for hardcore shoppers and sightseers at the moment. When they start playing around with facial recognition in photos, well, that’s when the fun really starts.

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.