From search-engine to walled garden: majority of Google searches do not result in a click

As tech began to concentrate, two dominant strategies emerged: Google's (instrument the whole internet for surveillance, which means that you don't have to lock people in in order to spy on them) and Apple's (lock everyone into a walled garden, and extract revenue by refusing to let them out again).

But the along came Facebook, whose strategy is lock everyone in and spy on them.

Now that Facebook has blazed that trail, everyone else is slowly turning into Facebook. Apple is using its walled garden to turn into a surveillance company and Google is likewise turning into a walled garden.

Google's original pitch to the rest of the web was, "We deliver traffic: people search here for answers, and we send them back to you to get them." But over time, and for a variety of reasons (not all of them bad, see e.g., "Not sending people to sites that have malvertising"), the company has been trying to serve the answer to your question with no further clicking required.

Now, that strategy has hit a tipping point. According to analytics from Jumpstream, the majority of Google searches no longer end with a click. On Sparktoro, Rand Fishkin calls this "a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden."

Much of Fishkin's post is about how Google's reps refused to give a clear answer to Congress when questioned on this subject (which is true), but the real lesson here is that firms do not practice forbearance: once a company dominates its market, whatever odious measures it took off the table to attain its dominance are reconsidered. Transhuman, immortal colony organisms do not tolerate limits on effective growth strategies over the long term. In the absence of competition, they will gradually become their own worst selves: "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

While you're reading this, cast your mind back to 2012: "Sergei Brin on the existential crisis of the net: walled gardens + snooping governments."

June (as shown at the top of this post) is when zero-click searches in browsers passed 50%, but the pie chart above shows that even before that, Google was sending a huge portion of search clicks to their own properties (~6% of queries and ~12% of clicks). Those properties include YouTube, Maps, Android, Google’s blog, subdomains of Google.com, and a dozen or so others (full list here).

Maybe Google’s websites are ranking exclusively because they’re the best result, but if Congress is asking questions about whether a monopoly is potentially abusing its market dominance in one field to unfairly compete in another, I’ve got something else they’ll want to see. It’s a chart of where searches happened on major web properties in Q2, and as you can see, there’s no competition.

Google is almost certainly even more dominant than the chart above suggests. That’s because mobile apps, which Jumpshot doesn’t currently measure, aren’t included — this is just browser-based search data. The Google Maps App, Google Search App, and YouTube are installed on almost every mobile device in the US, and likely have so much usage that, if their search statistics were included, Google’s true market share would be 97%+.

(Image: Jumpshot)

(via Four Short Links)