Future of Search Market: Google to 80%, Crumbs for YHOO

Google gained more query share last month and is now at 65% in the U.S., per Hitwise (and as much or more globally). The bad news about this for Google, as we’ve previously observed, is that Google can’t capture more than the whole pie.  (See The Downside of Google’s Surging Search Share).


We’ve previously discussed the financial impact of this trend on Google (summarized below). What we haven’t discussed is the impact on Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask, and other players. In a word? Disaster…

If the search share patterns match those of the auction, operating system, and other monopoly markets (eBay, Microsoft), Google would end up with about 90% share worldwide.  Network effects are less pronounced in search than in auctions, however, so we expect Google will probably end up with about 80% share. (According to ReadWriteWeb, however, Google already has 90% search share in France, so 90% is not inconceivable.)

What would Google’s ascendancy to 80% share mean in terms of dollars? So far, we’ve only calculated the value of US search share points, but here they are:

Google generated $2.7 billion in “Google Sites” revenue in Q3. Most of this came from search, and about half of it ($1.4 billion) came from the U.S. Each of Google’s 65 search “points,” therefore, generated about $22 million of quarterly revenue, or $86 million annually. For simplicity’s sake, call it $100 million per year per point.

As Google’s algorithms get more efficient, it will likely continue to generate more revenue per search point, but the point here is that the amount it can gain from search share gains is finite (even internationally). Specifically, in the U.S., at the current rate of revenue per query, Google can gain between $500 million (70% share) and $2.5 billion (90% share) before its search share gains are maxed out.

Those numbers represent an increase of about 10% to 40% on top of Google’s current U.S. search business. Based on anecdotal reports from other countries, Google may have even less headroom internationally.


Per Comscore, Yahoo is clinging to 21% share in the US. For perspective, in France, where No. 2 player Yahoo had five years to build up a lead on Google, Yahoo now has only 3% share (in August).  We won’t do the maths 21% to 3% revenue maths, but considering that search probably contributes half of Yahoo’s revenue and more than half of its profit, this result would be devastating.

A decline of Yahoo’s US share to 3% would be shocking.  Inasmuch as Yahoo has not proven that it can stem the share bleed, however, it is not just reasonable to assume that Yahoo is headed to less than 10% share. It’s prudent.


Per today’s numbers, Microsoft has a pathetic 7% share of the US market, down 3 points year over year.  Given the hundreds of millions (billions?) Microsoft has spent on search, it is impossible to overstate how awful this is. Based on past trends, it’s only going to get worse.

Despite all the advantages one could ever ask for (browser monopoly, unlimited money and R&D resources, global platform, etc) Microsoft is going nowhere but down in this market. Anyone who says differently is hallucinating.


Forget it. Ask has 4.5% share (when you include all of its third-party syndication sites. The share for the site itself is about 2%). Ask is going to get squeezed out of the search market. Its only hope is to focus on a niche or sell itself to Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft.

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