Anyone who’s been aware of the tech industry for years will have seen a number of products, services and brands look unassailable …and yet somehow, they never see off the competition entirely, and often fall back into the pack or disappear. At various times the term ‘ubiquitous’ could be applied to names as varied as Nokia, Netscape, AltaVista, SyQuest, IBM, Compaq and Geocities – and the list goes on.
Could Google go the same way? It’s become a generic term for ‘searching the web’. But it may be more fragile than people think. How many people actually go to google.com nowadays? Most of us just type search terms into a browser address bar, and on some platforms, Google has to pay to be the default there. To make it the default on Apple computers and phones cost an estimated $9.5 billion for 2018 and $12 billion for 2019, according to Goldman Sachs. Apple could easily decide that privacy issues for its users outweigh this huge income stream. Google’s tracking, which we all use in our advertising, is far from popular with privacy-aware users.
Other search engines are growing, if still tiny, and include some with minimal ads and others experimenting with a paid-for model. It’s not a given that the amazing advertising medium which Google has become will be around forever. Remember, from 2005 to 2008, the largest social networking site in the world was… MySpace.