Of the big three search engines, none are strictly a search engine. Google remains nearest the mark, but as it pumps out more portal-like features, it strays farther from being able to call itself simply a search engine. Of course, Yahoo! and MSN have long been portals, with search only being one small piece of the whole. As SEOs, we tend to concentrate mostly on the search side of the business, naturally. However, it pays to keep an eye on all the other features that the big 3 come up with. Why? Because in the long run, the winner of the search engine war (if there is one), may well have more to do with non-search products than it does with the search engine itself.
Yahoo! and MSN already have loyal users, due in large part to the portal features that each has. Users get used to having their home page display all of their interests (local weather, news, horoscopes, entertainment gossip, email, and oh yeah, a search engine too). I think Google is starting to realize that it will have to transform itself in some way if it hopes to lure away some of those loyal users. Of course, Gmail, Google News, Orkut and Blogger immediately spring to mind as portal type products, but they aren't displayed on an integrated portal-type page...yet. I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen in the future, although Google will probably keep the page fairly clean and clutter-free.
MSN recently added to its offerings with My Spaces blog, and Yahoo! is now getting into the blogging game as well. My Spaces doesn't impress me as being a product that will have a huge affect in the search engine war, but the new Yahoo! 360 social networking/blogging service may hold promise in that area. We don't yet have much information about the upcoming product, but the information we do have sounds very interesting. When I first read the short description of its new service (combination of social networking and blogging), I shrugged. Social networking (Orkut specifically) bores me. I have never been able to see it being much more than a passing fad. Blogging, of course, is hot, but in and of itself, it may not be a show-stopper. However, after reading more of the details of Yahoo! 360, I have to wonder if this might be the killer product that launches Yahoo! into the top spot in the big 3 of search.
Cnet, in its article, says this about it:
"Yahoo 360 combines a new blogging tool along with several longtime Yahoo products, including instant messaging, photo storage and sharing, and Internet radio. It also offers tools for sharing recommendations about places to eat, favorite movies, music and so on."
Now, this sounds intriguing to me. I think we all see that communties (blogging and forums, for example) are here to stay. If Yahoo! can combine this with all of the above in an easy, fun, and interesting way, I think this could be the product of products for search engines. If they blow it, well, we will have to wait for the next big thing.
As an SEO, it matters to me who wins the search engine wars. I need to know where to concentrate more of my efforts. My strategy may change depending upon which search engine is sending the most visitors. So, while I may not spend a lot of time discussing non-search-specific topics, I am keeping my eye on the other products that the big 3 are producing. And you should be too.