APPLE Launches NEW Search Engine, Search Will Be TOTALLY Different, No Reported Problems
Apple is famous for venturing into new projects that dramatically transform the market and reshape the customer experience.
Robert Scoble has compiled a list of things to look forward to at Apple’s WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) on Monday, June 6th. Robert said a lot of things, but when it came to search, he specifically said, “and a new search engine is coming too.”
One of the most controversial (yet unconfirmed) projects is a new search engine platform that may have the potential to shift the market dynamic and challenge the dominance of Google.
This was obviously a minor complaint from Robert; he’s much more interested in what Apple will do with augmented reality (AR). Maybe we’ll see Apple Glasses soon?
Over the years, we’ve discussed how Apple has quietly begun to show signals of getting into web search. We first noticed evidence of an Apple Spider – Applebot in 2014, indeed, eight years ago. Then there were reports of AppleBot sightings in 2015, as well as Apple’s own search ranking variables and AppleBot user agent information. When John Giannandrea switched from Google to Apple in 2018, they mentioned it.
Why would Apple be interested in launching a search engine?
Currently, Google is the leading search engine market with a market share of 86.6% for 2020, the company has generated $181 billion in revenue. The majority of the search engine’s revenue is accumulated through advertising, and that’s a significant reason for other tech giants such as Apple to attempt to enter the market and look for opportunities for similar growth.
Google is a default search engine for Apple’s Safari on all its platforms connecting the two companies in a partnership that often means the two have legal non-compete obligations, especially when concerns around policy and practices are raised.
Google has recently been involved in legal issues around allegations from the US Department of Justice that the company is favoring its own services over more-specialized competitors in the search result. That, however, is the type of attention any brand prefers to avoid and could potentially be a reason for Apple’s attempt to distance itself from Google, by creating their own search engine service.
Filed in a California court earlier this week against Apple, Google, and their respective CEOs, the lawsuit alleges the two companies have a non-compete agreement in the internet search business that violates US antitrust laws.
Specifically, the complaint charges Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai of participating in “regular secret meetings” in which Google agrees to share its profits with Apple if it is given preferential treatment on devices like the iPhone and iPad.
Apple vs Google
To keep its position as Apple’s Safari default search engine, Google has been investing significant sums – reportedly as much as $12 billion per year, and that investment has been worth it since Apple’s Safari is currently the most popular mobile browser in the US with a market share of 54%, followed by Google’s owned Chrome. If Apple decides to move forward with creating a search engine that will rival their service, Google will be in a difficult situation. Apple will also be affected by a loss of Google’s investment.
On the other hand, Apple’s unmatched popularity with users gives experts the confidence to say that a search engine developed by Apple could be a game-changer, firmly establishing the smartphone giant as an influential competitor to Google.
It’s no secret Apple and Google have a considerable monetary agreement that ensures Google’s position as the default search engine on Apple devices. Neither company has ever confirmed exactly how much Google pays to be the default search engine on Apple devices in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries, but it’s rumored to be in the billions.
In 2020, The New York Times reported that Apple receives an estimated $8-12 billion per year in exchange for making Google the default search on its devices. According to one analyst, Google’s payment to Apple in 2021 to maintain this status quo may have reached up to $15 billion.
For SEO companies that will create the need for new search engine optimization strategies and approaches to ensure a good Apple ranking. The difference between Apple and Google is that the first will focus on practices of optimizing websites to rank in the top results of Apple’s search results.
Hear-say is of course not enough to conclude that Apple is looking to develop its own search platform. Nonetheless, the company has been busy with projects that indicate such intentions:
Apple hiring search engineers
The recruitment of John Giannandrea, the former Google head of search, by Apple is a reason for experts to comment on the company’s perceived intention of creating its own search engine.
Giannandrea joined Apple’s team in 2018 and since has been heading the machine learning and AI strategy for the brand. As part of the executive team, his work focuses on products like Core ML for iOS app developers and a dedicated AI chip that’s reportedly under development.
This is believed to be the single biggest payment Google makes to anyone and could account for up to a fifth of Apple’s annual profits. But it has also drawn scrutiny in the past, in particular from the US Justice Department, which claims that the deal is representative of illegal tactics used to protect Google’s monopoly and stifle competition.
The UK Competition and Markets Authority has also called the arrangement a “significant barrier to entry and expansion” for rivals in the search engine market, and in 2020 asked for enforcement authorities to be provided with a range of options to address the deal between Apple and Google to provide a more level playing field for other search engines.
What’s more, Apple has listed over 150 job positions for its Siri team, which is another indication that the company is preparing for something big.
Bringing the antitrust case to a San Francisco court this week, lawyer Joseph M Alioto said: “These powerful companies abused their size by unlawfully foreclosing and monopolizing major markets which in an otherwise free enterprise system would have created jobs, lowered prices, increased production, added new competitors, encouraged innovations, and increased the quality of services in the digital age.”
Apple and Google would likely argue that while the payments are indeed for Google to remain the default search option, users can select other search engines in Safari including Microsoft’s Bing, Apollo Fund’s Yahoo, and independent search engines DuckDuckGo and Ecosia.
In July 2020, Apple published information on its web crawler’s latest updates. The changes published on Applebot’s support page started a discussion around how similar they were to the details Google provides to webmasters and SEOs.
Here are a few of the factors that Applebot now uses to rank search results:
Web pages design
Number and quality of backlinks
Accumulated user engagement
Relevancy of searches with webpage content
Location of the user
iOS introduces a search feature
iOS 14 includes a feature that helps users to access search results straight through Spotlight search, designed as a single destination for finding, and launching apps, contacts, and files.
The most relevant search results appear at the top of the search interface with suggestions being provided as the users start typing.
Apple’s search engine will probably be more of a personalized data hub, deeper integration with the operating system, and be completely private.
That would benefit users as they will not only continue to rely on keeping their data private but integrate the service with their iCloud data, delivering results based on messages, photos, events, music, and other personal interests – without the need for third-party apps, and compromise on their privacy.
Apple would also likely point out that it is already in the search engine business and maintains an active web crawler, called Applebot. The crawler chiefly operates in the background to improve Siri and Spotlight search results, although past reports have interpreted Applebot’s increased activity as Apple “stepping up efforts” to develop its own search technology should its agreement with Google become incompatible with antitrust laws.