Open Thread: Would You Change Search Engines?

For most people, even web workers, there is only one search engine on the web. To some extent we differ over which one that is: there are people who use Google all the time, others who swear by Yahoo, and so on. In reality, of course, there are a zillion search engines out there. We’ve covered a bunch of alternatives in the past, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. But except in very narrow niches, it seems like all of the alternatives face the same problem: how to get any traction in a market where most people have long since decided what they’ll use.

Search engine makers have tried a variety of ways to get customers. Some have bragged about their superior technology and invested in splashy launch PR (sometimes with disastrous results – remember Cuil?). Microsoft has resorted to paying people to use its search engine – most recently with the SearchPerks! program. Firefox has made it easy to switch by providing a dropdown button that can change your browser’s default search engine with two clicks.

And yet, despite all the marketing in the world, Google’s share of the market keeps going up (it’s around 70% now), with Yahoo! firmly in second place and everyone else splitting 10% of the pie. On the face of it, it’s amazing that anyone with the business plan of “build a new search engine” even gets funding.

But how about your own search habits? Are you firmly committed to one and not even looking at another? Are you one of those flexible web workers who uses different search engines for different tasks? Is there anything that a new player in the market could offer that would really make you want to switch?

By the way, if you want a bit of search engine fun, Google has put a copy of their 2001 version out on the web to play with. It’s amusing to look back on a time when the top hit for “web worker” is an HTML editing application.

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