DOJ vs. Insert Big Digital Player Name Here
Right now the Department of Justice is reviewing, among other things, both the Yahoo and Bing search partnership and the Google acquisition of AdMob in the mobile space. As the Internet continues to fragment at its edges, the core players continue to grow stronger and stronger. Everyone knows the dominance Google has in search; now the company wants it in display and may have bought it in mobile. At this point the DOJ has an enormous challenge to determine if either of these deals end broader competition in the marketplace.
Yahoo/Bing vs. Market Share
If you assume for a second that the Yahoo + Bing marriage is going to happen, then the question is, what does it mean for advertisers and the marketplace. That answer ultimately boils down to market share gains. Right now, Yahoo is doing its best to sell any valuable assets (with HotJobs joining the list of sold assets) and retain destination status. The news on the search share front has been mixed with regards to this partnership. Yahoo's losses have translated into Bing's gains. Clearly, the new Bing is better than the last iteration of Microsoft Live Search, but what does Act 2 look like? We are approaching the year mark for Bing, and we've yet to see anything major on the ad side with formats or features. Bing's minimal variants from Google aren't taking traffic from the dominant #1 player in the space.
Google vs. Apple
Most expect that even with the Yahoo-Microsoft mash-up, attention will be focused on integration, and that innovation will suffer. Well, prevailing wisdom had been that Google could innovate its heart out and expand the desktop search lead. Then along came the Nexus One and a firestorm of trash talk between the powers that be at Apple and Google about what their devices are and the others are not. Suddenly, one can't help but wonder if Google's about to go start a Holy War for the "Cool Kids" crown with Apple, while leaving the store unmanned. Google's trick in search advertising has been a good one, but it has yet to capture the imagination around social, mobile or even technology the way other digital pioneers have. I have to think this is a mountain the company longs to conquer, but at what cost?
Social/Real-Time Search vs. The Hype
You can't read a blog or newsletter on the search or social space without your head exploding from all the pontification about the potential of social search. There's no doubt that the Google mission for organizing the world's information gets infinitely harder when you bring immediacy into the equation and the information is Web-based, in micro-formats like status updates from Facebook and tweets.
That being said, the hype about how this will change the world of intent and search as we know it seems out of proportion to the real value it has today. This is an area where I think the hype is at Year of Mobile circa 2007/2008 levels. Someday, people will tell you they were on this bandwagon when it left the station, but will fail to mention they had to sit on that hard wood for a good two years waiting for meaning movement.
And finally, the Super Bowl. Colts and Saints. The best of 2009; two teams that started 13-0 now playing for the Lombardi trophy. The outcome? Too much Peyton, and end score of 38-20 favoring the Colts. If only these other battles were as easy to predict.