Would Apple Introduce A Privacy Search Engine To Compete With DuckDuckGo?

Apple’s Safari -- the default browser on all Macs, iPhones, and iPads -- is the second most popular browser on the market with more than 1 billion users, but it still comes in a distant second to Google Chrome.

Devices have helped Apple drive adoption of its products, passing Firefox and Microsoft Edge, according to Atlas VPN. But to put it into perspective, Chrome currently has more than 3.3 billion users. Microsoft Edge, in third place, has surpassed Firefox with 212 million users.

There are many browsers based on Google Chrome such as Microsoft Edge, Brave, Vivaldi, and Opera.

What if Apple created a web-based search engine -- or at the least, improved on search functions in device-based browsers -- with a focus on privacy?

Greg Sterling, Mike Blumenthal, and Adam Dorfman -- the vice president of product growth at Reputation, who sat in for a vacationing David Mim -- spoke about the possibility during the podcast The Near Memo, a weekly conversation about search, social and commerce published by Near Media.



The three led off the discussion with the rumor that Apple would introduce a web-based search engine this week during its annual developers’ conference.

Through the years, the company has considered the idea of launching a search engine. But Apple is not completely removed from search.

Siri, in a sense, is a voice search engine. Spotlight and Safari provide search features.

One reason that Apple might take search further is to bring more people into its ecosystem. It is conceivable that a private search engine could do that, Blumenthal said. He thought Apple would improve on device-based search. Search would be a feature within the device.

Safari—the URL bar is a powerful search tool, but the question is how Apple might push the search tool out onto the web, because it did not push maps to the web, Blumenthal said.

It might make more sense if Apple built a privacy-based search engine, the three agreed -- one that would not require a restricted deal with Microsoft Bing or Google Search.

“I would be surprised if they launched a web-based search engine without some sort of acquisition happening at the same time,” Dorfman said. “We all know search is really hard to get right. It’s easy to get 80% right, but to get that last 20% is incredibly difficult. A lot of companies have struggled with it.”

If Apple could roll a new search engine into a privacy push it would become easier to lure additional users who care about keeping information private into its network. It would build more trust among users and make a bigger difference in the search industry.

“I think they are the only party that has the capacity to capture market share from Google on the iPhone,” Sterling said.  

Sterling said if Apple wanted to replace Google Search, the company would not need to launch a desktop offering. It doesn't need to go onto the web. The feature can remain device-based.

“I always thought if they were going to get serious about search, they would buy a company like … or DuckDuckGo,” Sterling said.

Sterling sees Apple’s motivations going beyond bringing more people into the ecosystem. It also would include completing its push on privacy, and expanding into new revenue opportunities. Apple, he said, has been generating additional revenue from search ads in the app store.

As Tim Cook looks to grow revenue, he said search ads could become very lucrative for the company.

The three didn’t think the industry will see, now, a stand-alone search engine, but rather incremental advancements.

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