Just An Online Minute... Going Public

Hooray! Google is going to become a public company.

The news came yesterday afternoon amid a torrent of earnings reports from Internet and non-Internet companies. There was so much traffic to the SEC.gov site that we were unable to obtain a copy of the filing there.

From here on in, and for better or worse, the klieg lights will shine on Google. In some ways, going public means always having to say you're sorry, or at least having to account for every action--financial and otherwise.

In the coming months, the red-hot keyword search category is likely to heat up in ways we can't even imagine as new pricing models, products, and services roil the waters in an already frothy category. Ladies and gentlemen--get ready to rumble!

Microsoft's MSN is also poised to enter the fray. MSN, which is building its own search technology and service, offered us a glimpse in late March during its Customer Summit, of the kinds of features its service will provide. Yahoo!/Overture is out to take back share it ceded to Google over the last few years.

In February, Google accounted for nearly 35 percent of searches conducted at major search engines by U.S. Internet users, while Yahoo! had 30 percent, according to comScore Networks. On a global basis, Google represented 43 percent of all searches, comScore reports.

That's a lot of share.

Nielsen//NetRatings yesterday issued data that shows Google as the top search destination, luring more than 65 million Web surfers in March, while Yahoo! attracted 48 million, MSN 45 million. America Online's AOL Search attracted 21 million visitors and Ask Jeeves racked up 14 million visitors in March.

Google's also had a growth spurt in just about all of its channels. Nielsen says Google News saw a 50 percent increase in traffic from 3.3 million unique visitors to 4.9 million unique visitors in March, and its Image Search racked up 12.3 million uniques, a 48 percent jump since October 2003. Google Groups grew 41 percent, Toolbar Features climbed 37 percent, and Google Answers notched a 26 percent growth.

Ad spending on paid search is projected to climb from $2.5 billion in 2003 to $3.2 billion this year, according to eMarketer. The question is: which provider is poised to attract most of those dollars?

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