May 25, 2009

Facebook Becoming A Threat To Google In Online Search Market

A spokesman for Google said on Monday the company has identified social networking sites like Facebook as growing competitors in Internet search, The Associated Press reported.

Google Group Product Manager Ken Tokusei noted that Internet users are increasingly looking for answers to their search questions, not just a list of sites in response to a query.

He said users also expect something personal from the Internet and they're increasingly turning to it to answer more personal questions such as which daycare to choose or what restaurant to go to.

Tokusei said social networking sites have a big advantage in this shift, since information gleaned from them comes from friends, acquaintances, or at least an individual, and users tend to trust that information more.

"We haven't gotten to the point where results are seen as if they come from someone you know," he added.

Now Google has begun to offer tools for users to rate results and delete unrelated links, but Tokusei said the company still has more work to do.

The search leader is making efforts to better home in on the information requested in a search.

Sites such as WolframAlpha, launched earlier this month, comb the Internet for data, analyze it and then provide specific answers to queries, rather than a list of sites.

For some search requests, Google can provide similar results by producing price quotes for "Sony stock" or an answer to "Tunisia capital." However, it mostly returns a familiar list of sites on which a user must seek out further information on their own.

Tokusei said it's a matter of determining what kind of information the user is looking for.

"But we will always serve some links to pages with our results," he said.

He gave an overview of the company's basic search tools during a meeting with reporters at Google's Japanese headquarters in Tokyo.

Google devotes 70 percent of its employees and resources to search, but is has also developed a host of expanding tools and services, from a mobile operating system to an online word processor.

However, the company's traditional rivals are regrouping in an attempt to take back market share.

Microsoft has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into improving its search engine, and continues to develop a new search technology, part of which is called "Kumo" internally. But so far the company has failed to make much headway.

Yahoo is tweaking its search results by cutting out some links altogether and adding more emphasis on images and video. Yahoo has seen much of its market share plummet in the face of Google's dominance over the last few years.

However, after a proposed deal was turned down last year, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has said he is still interested in buying part of Yahoo.


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