On the MTV show "Pimp My Ride", members of Gen-Y with beat up cars (usually a 10 year old Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla) get paired with music celebrities and a team of automotive technicians. Over the course of the show, they transform the car into a "totally pimped-out ride, dude" with lots of shiny paint, chrome, big speakers and flashing lights. While the folks on the show seem quite impressed, at the end of the day it always seemed to me that they still had a 10 year old Honda Civic - it just had a lot more shine to it.
While this makes for somewhat entertaining television, I don't think it is a good business strategy for search engines. But unfortunately this is what the search engines (besides Google) have resorted to in their quest to get a larger marketshare of search. Here is a NY Times article about some of the efforts of the different search engines.
MSN Live - Microsoft is overhauling (again) its Live Search (www.live.com), including a feature called "blended search" that includes a lot of images, videos and other multimedia in search results. It was supposed to be launched today (Sept 27) but doesn't appear to be "live" yet. Which is surprising because Microsoft is always on time with product releases, including the patch I need to make Vista actually work. Oh wait, that's late too.
Yahoo Search - Yahoo has some similar features, which they call "shortcuts". To be honest, the page of results is still chock full of ads, and what people really want are organic results - studies indicate people click on organic results 75% of the time. So even with these shortcuts, Yahoo isn't giving me what I want.
Ask.com - You've probably seen their multi-million dollar TV advertisements (didn't they learn anything from 1999?) promoting their "Ask 3D" search, which I find funny because it is not 3D. It is nice looking 2D. What I find really annoying about Ask (and also Yahoo) is that the paid results are not that well marked (the blue background is REALLY light and hard to see) and there are almost no organic results above the fold. Read more about the importance of organic search and the difference between paid and organic search.
All of these enhancements are really just a bunch of chrome and paint on a 10 year old car. I still used Google to do all my research for this article (except actually looking at the 3 other search engines to see what they could do). As a marketer, I do hope someone challenges Google for search supremacy, because I don't want any one search engine to have too much power in the market. Unfortunately, I don't think we have a worthy contender yet.
What are your thoughts on the "other" search engines? Will anyone ever challenge Google for significant marketshare? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.