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New evidence of why Google so dominates search

The New York Times article today: "South Koreans Connect Through Search Engine" provides a huge window into what the real source of a search engine's market dominance is. (The article indicates that in South Korea, Naver.com is the leading search engine with 77% share, followed by South Korean company Daum.net with 10.8%, and Yahoo with 4.4%. Google's market share is 1.7% in South Korea.)

  • The South Korean example is a particularly helpful set of facts and insights to the FTC and Congress in their journey to understand Google's increasing search dominance and the potential anti-competitive effects of the Google-DoubleClick merger.

Specifically, what makes Google's 1.7% South Korean search market share different from its 90% share in Germany, Spain, 82% share in France, 75% share in the UK, and its 65% share in the US -- given that Google has been competing in the South Korean market since 2000?

  • The New York Times sub headline answer to that question is: "Google can't compete with a homegrown portal's wealth of data in Korean".
    • The supporting quote for that conclusion comes from Wayne Lee, an analyst with Woori Investment and Securities: "No matter how powerful Google's search engine may be, it doesn't have enough Korean-language data to trawl to satisfy South Korean customers."
  • The profound insight and conclusion of the NYT reporter, Choe Sang-Hun, is that it isn't the search engine's software algorthim that is the key to competitive dominance -- it is the quality and quantity of information searched. In other words, a search engine is only as good as the database it searches.
    • A spokesman for the company that owns Naver.com explained: "At Google, users basically look for data that already exists on the Internet. In South Korea, if you want to be a search engine, you have to create your own database."

Now we are getting somewhere. Why is Google so dominant in search in the rest of the world? Because Google, in other languages, has more information to be searched than any competitor -- by far. Simply, Google has assembled the world's largest database to search -- per its mission: "to organize the world's information to make it universally accessible and useful."

  • As we learned in another NYT article by Saul Hansel June 4th, Google is constantly making a copy of every page of every website and caching them on on their server grid as a type of 'world master database of information' for instantaneous search. In other words, Google is constantly recreating a "Shadow Internet" of all the Internet's content on its server grid or "master database."
  • Google founders have explained what they believe are the two keys to search success (or search dominance) comprehensiveness of searched material and responsiveness/speed of Internet search.
    • Google's founders insight explains why Google is so far ahead of others in being the first to digitize most all of the world's books and publications and why Google has invented the world's fastest scanning technology to help it assemble the world's largest database of searchable information.
  • According to the South Korean NYT article, Naver now has "accumulated a user-generated database of 70 million entries" in Korean.
    • What FTC and Congressional observers will find highly instructive is if Google's upgraded and modified approach in South Korea which launched just this May, succeeds  in unseating Naver.com's South Korean search dominance.
    • If it cannot, (which I suspect is highly likely given Naver.com's first mover advantage and network effects) it suggests analogously that smaller and less experienced search players in the US will have an exceedingly tough time trying to unseat Google from its established dominance in the US and Europe (given Google's first mover advantage and network effects).

Simply, why this article and the South Korean example is important to the FTC's review of the Google-DoubleClick merger is that it helps show that there are very substantial barriers to entry in the search market.

  • In turn, what substantial barriers to entry mean for the Google-DoubleClick merger is increased concern by FTC investigators about whether the rest of the market could compete sufficiently with a Google-DoubleClick to preserve competition and protect consumers, if the merger were approved. 
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