Oct 29, 2005

Google and Yahoo - The clash of the titans

Google is the world's most popular search engine. Yahoo is arguably the world's best portal. And both of these giants of the Web are entering into a battle for supremacy. It is going to be one long struggle.

Yahoo, the oldest of the two (and even then only about ten years old!), started out as a bunch of links to some good sites on the then, sparsely populated Web. Over time, it has become a one-stop shop for the net surfer, offering everything from mail and chat to finance and search. The user-base of the portal is very strong, and growing every day.

Google started out as a project by two Stanford University students. Designed to make sense of the Web using an algorithm of link structures of the pages on the Web, Google provided the searcher with more accurate results than conventional search engines, and its popularity soared in a couple of years to make it the most popular search engine.

Google's efforts to build on its loyal users and convert them into an active user-base with huge potential for revenue generation is only the natural thing for them to do. After all, they have one of the strongest brands in the world and what good is all that brand equity if you can't make some money out of it? Google has been offering advertising solutions to marketers who will be only too happy to pay Google for showing their links near to the search results. Also, using its context-sensitive advertising, Google is even making money out of content of other publishers.

That is all very good, but is Google trying to do too many things at the same time? Gmail, their free e-mail service, is still in Beta stage, and users aren't too sure when it will be final. Google's homepage, which was a clear white screen with a searchbox and a couple of buttons a few years ago is turning into a collection of links to the many services it offers. It is okay for now, but if the trend continues, it won't be soon before the Google home-page will be looking more and more like Yahoo's. Yahoo, on the other hand, is much more experienced in content management and portal design than Google, and the number of visits to their different services everyday proves it.

Granted, Google's services have been delivering, but aren't they really straying a bit too far from their core competency - search? Google is what it is now because of its excellent search engine, and nothing else. Shouldn't they be rather trying to improve the quality of their search results than to give users what they can already get from other sites? After all, the mantra of survival on the WWW is differentiation. If you are just like the rest, who needs you anyway?

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