For more than a decade, Google has become synonymous with search. Despite Microsoft's well-funded efforts to get users to "Bing It," people are still "googling" with wild abandon. However, there are some signs that the company's dominance may not extend into the mobile age.
According to a New York Times report, traditional web searches declined 3 percent in the second half of last year after rising for years, while searches on topical ("verticle") search engines rose 8 percent over the same period.
It's not that people aren't hungry for content. They are. But people are starting to alter their habits to search through curated content.
Web users have learned that--as good as Google is at what it does--it is often and easier to go directly to a cloistered, curated segment of the Web to find what you want.
Savvy users know to search for items they want to purchase on Amazon or Target; or go straight to IMDB for information on that actress who was in that one thing from back in the day; or to Wikipedia to look up information on that far away country mentioned on the news.
Google is an unnecessary and easily avoidable middleman standing between you and a trusted information source.
This change in search behavior becomes more palpable in the mobile, app-centric era. Users are far more likely to search for weather information, news, or mapping information directly through relevant apps rather than googling first.
This altering of the search landscape would explain Google's moves in recent years to purchase content providers such as Zagat's and Frommer's (for food and travel respectively). Google wants to remain the default entry into the Internet and provide everything quickly and in as few steps as possible.
This one-stop-shopping strategy may prove wise as the mobile space moves into hands-free search via native apps like Siri and S-Voice or into strange new voice-activated devices like Google Glass. In these situations, a single entry into the Web may prove easier than accessing specific curated app gateways.
For now, Google remains the dominant gatekeeper to rest of the Web. However, as Facebook pushes their new super app, we may be catching a glimpse of the future battlelines for mobile ubiquity.