This week Google celebrates its 25 year-birthday and during that period the company has grown into a juggernaut that knows and stores everything about us, and is present everywhere. In a series of articles, we will discuss the power of Google, the success factors, the growing criticism and Google’s prospects for the coming years.
The final part of this series will further explore Google’s prospects for the next 25 years.
What is Google’s position in 2023?
In 2023, Google Search is the dominant search engine worldwide, it is the default search engine on Apple devices and almost every smartphone, educational institutions receive ‘free’ licenses (future users assured), advertising revenues are skyrocketing, and the company does a lot more than just building a search engine: from AI and Android to YouTube, from home automation to self-driving cars. Once started in a garage, the company is now housed in a huge complex and has more than 70 offices in 55 countries, employing around 85,000 employees.
At the same time, there is increasing criticism of how Google handles user data, how it tackles disinformation and it is facing more and more lawsuits about unfair competition. You can say anything about Google, but not that nothing ever happens… It is certainly worth following the company in the coming years.
Now that Google has turned 25, it must figure out how to integrate AI into online search. Because although the digital world is currently still organized according to Google’s search model (see article 2 in this series about Google’s invisible influence), this may change due to the rapid rise of AI.
The distant future is unpredictable, but a number of trends are visible for the very short term.
1. Google is going to participate fully in the AI software race
Google has given a small group of companies access to a version of Gemini, its artificial intelligence software that will compete with OpenAI’s GPT-4 model. The challenge is to integrate Gemini with the search engine and office software and still retain the lucrative advertising market.
2. More and more regulatory legislation is being introduced
While Google complains that it is being punished for its success, the number of lawsuits and regulatory laws is increasing. The European Union in particular, has taken the lead with a law that limits Big Tech companies and forces them to tackle disinformation, but the US government is also fully engaged in this. And although Google and other companies try to thwart this as much as possible, the American government is prepared to initiate lawsuits. In order not to lose users, Big Tech companies are adapting their applications to the new legislation, but they only do the minimum necessary.
3. Other standards?
Google pays mobile phone manufacturers a lot to install Google products as standard on their phones and tablets. There is a lot of resistance to this from governments and competitors. Samsung was even on the verge of terminating the agreement with Google, but decided against it. Google’s power, and its money, are (still) too extensive. The lawsuit now underway in America, and European legislation, could well oblige manufacturers to give consumers more choice. But is that enough to actually make users switch to a competing search engine?
4. Will Google itself change?
With billions of users and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, it was unlikely until now that Google would ever make major changes to its results page or adopt a new business model. But with the arrival of ChatGPT and its integration into Bing, ‘old-fashioned’ internet searching is under threat. The fact that the Internet is becoming more and more like a database made for robots does not make searching any easier for real users. Google faces the challenge of finding a way of searching that is acceptable and convenient for both robots and real people, and that still generates enough revenue through advertising or otherwise.
Of course, the future cannot be predicted. Who could have imagined 20 years ago that in 2023 everyone would be glued to their mobile phone? That literally all the information in the world would be available?
That makes making predictions a fun activity, but also uncertain. But one thing seems certain: Google seems likely to remain the dominant search engine in the coming years. Although you never know…