Tuesday, June 5, 2012

As Google Tinkers with Search, Upstarts Gain Ground (GOOG)

From MIT's Technology Review:

Niche search engines Blekko and DuckDuckGo have exploded in popularity in recent months.
Google's willingness to tinker with its Web search may be opening a gap for new search engines to fill.

January saw Google launch Search, plus Your World, a service that adds links shared by friends to the results page a user sees, based on activity collected from other Google services such as Google+ and Gmail. February brought news that Google would correlate users' activity across all its sites, to better target its ads. At about the same time as these controversial changes were implemented, usage of two search startup companies, Blekko and DuckDuckGo, started to climb rapidly, and the two haven't looked back since.

The two sites still command only a tiny percentage of online searches, but their recent growth suggests they didn't receive millions from venture capitalists in vain. Both companies make a point of emphasizing their relatively simple design and a commitment to protecting users' privacy, values some people claim Google has abandoned with its social efforts.

"I believe that there's an opportunity for multiple new search engines to fragment the market a little bit, and that represents a great opportunity," says Gabriel Weinberg, who founded DuckDuckGo in 2008 as a side project, but whose company now employs four people full-time and received $3 million in investment funding late last year. "It's the same as happened with Web browsers. People realized that there was very little choice, and then it fragmented again," he says, referring to the way that Microsoft's Internet Explorer lost its dominant position....MORE