Rumors are floating around the Web this week about a possible new search engine in the works by Apple. Let me be the first to say I hope they're not true.
A story published by tech blog TechCrunch Thursday cites "multiple (if thin) reports" claiming the Mac-maker is developing its own search competitor. The story notes that Apple's Safari browser, which currently commands about 6.5 percent of the browser market, uses Google as its default search engine -- thereby handing off valuable real estate it could be using to its own advantage. While TechCrunch points out that Apple doesn't appear to be hiring search experts, it also notes that "the rumors persist" and many employees at other search companies have reported hearing the same rumblings.
Like with most Internet-driven rumors, there's a strong chance we're hearing either a tiny part or a misleading distortion of the real story. In this instance, I'm hoping that's the case. Another search engine on the market is the last thing we need. My reasons?
1. The search market's already saturated.
We've already got Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo chomping for the piece of the pie -- not to mention players like Ask.com, AOL, and the slew of smaller and often forgotten companies. (Remember AltaVista?)
As it stands, all the players but Google are barely getting any of the action. Google's up to nearly two-thirds of the market while Yahoo's barely hanging on to 20 percent, Microsoft's sitting around 8, and the rest are barely making a dent, according to ComScore's ongoing analyses.
And it's not for lack of trying, either. Microsoft's attempted everything from giving away cash to now building a Facebook-like social base to try to lure people to its Live Search platform. So far, each of its efforts has failed -- Live Search has actually lost users since starting those promotions, while Google has continued to make gains. Do we really need yet another company clamoring for this already tapped out market?
2. What more could another search engine add to the equation?
Saturation aside, there's just not a strong demand for more in the world of search. What could another competitor offer that isn't already on the field? Some former Googlers tried to go the "drastically different" route and got a lot of publicity in the process. But when their project -- a little company called Cuil -- finally made its debut this past summer, it faded faster than Jerry Yang's dignity on the day he rejected Microsoft's offer.
3. If you must get into search, buy Yahoo. Please.
Speaking of Mr. Yang, there's a floundering search engine with a well-known brand just waiting to be bought. If Apple really wants to get into search, maybe it should consider snatching up Yahoo for the $4.99 pricetag it likely holds at this point. Sure, Yahoo isn't exactly prime real estate at the moment -- but it has the potential to be, if people who knew what they were doing were running it. And while the word "success" hasn't been uttered for years at the Yahoo headquarters, the site does still have a sizeable amount of users. Plus, if Apple were to buy it, we could finally stop having to hear all the silly announcements and proclamations about "the great new service" or "fantastic deal" Yahoo has in the works -- you know, the one that's really going to turn things around this time.
Now, it's entirely possible all this thought is for nothing. The rumor, after all, is just that -- a rumor. But if there's any shred of truth to it, I sincerely hope Apple reconsiders. We don't need another search engine in our cybercommunity. If anything, we need a few less.