Niall Kennedy argues that 'search is not a zero switch cost'. Even if a strong competitor emerges for Google they will have to do quite a bit of work given the steps Google has taken to embed itself in various user flows:

Google is spending billions to integrate its search products into the Apple operating system, new Dell PCs, MySpace, Firefox, and more. Google commands about a 50% share of the U.S. toolbar search market according to comScore. Google powers search on sites with lots of pages such as newspaper, university, and personal websites. A developer platform further diversifies these sources of traffic, turning the long tail of search origination into site revenue. [Search is not a zero cost switch]
I think that this is an interesting observation in itself. It also makes me think about service categories. I have been writing about 'getting into the flow' and 'disclosure' from a library point of view for a while. Increasingly, I think that libraries will recognize that this is a category of service which needs to be resourced, in staff, systems and other ways.

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Comments: 1

Jan 07, 2007
Skott Klebe

There's a more subtle way that search switching costs are nonzero, especially for experienced searchers. One learns how the various search engines tend to order results from page to page; when the first page of Google results doesn't help me, I know within a few clicks whether the further pages will help or whether I'll need to tune my query. I think that Ask does a much better job than Google on many queries (especially on the nontechnical meanings of words with technical homonyms - compare Apache on Ask and Google), but I've never switched all the way, because after the first page I feel lost in the Ask results in a way I don't in Google results. Does this resonate for you?