November 16th, 2020
Originally this was an answer on Quora to How do you see the Apple move that is developing its own search engine that will go up against Google?
At this point it’s hard to believe that Apple actually cares about going head-on with Google at its core competency.
- The Google default search engine deal on iOS generates $12b a year for Apple, which is 25% of their services revenue.
- The best way to generate revenue at that scale from search is unfortunately still ads.
- Apple will have to compromise a lot of their privacy ideals to be able to generate similar revenue.
The most credible rumors in this space have been from this article in FT https://www.ft.com/content/fd311801-e863-41fe-82cf-3d98c4c47e26
Apple has the expertise to build a great search engine, but do they have the data?
It’s very easy to build a search engine that’s good at the “head”, I.e. common queries like “facebook”, “nfl scores”, “weather”. That’s what Apple is solving for in Spotlight in iOS 14. The article claims they have the internal expertise to build a search engine.
- Most tech companies have the expertise to build a search engine as good as Google. What they lack is the right data.
- Microsoft and Apple have comparable data on what’s being searched for because they own major browsers and operating systems
- but because Google is the dominant search engine today, they have by far the best data on what link answers what query, and this is key to making results good in the tail for difficult queries like where to send children for college, or what career to pursue.
- People change search engines based on how good they are on the difficult tail queries. The moment Google can answer something tricky and DuckDuckGo can’t, people will switch to Google/go back to Google.
- To match Google at search result quality, Apple would have to log every visit people make in Safari, which instantly destroys their big privacy campaign.
So yeah, tough to walk that back.