Remember When Google Was a Verb?

It’s not a question anybody’s asked yet, of course, but it might be some nostalgia-born question from the future: “Remember when Google meant search?” At least according to this New York Times article.

What Ask Jeeves couldn’t do, what Yahoo couldn’t do, what Bing couldn’t do, what Facebook hasn’t (yet) done, mobile seems to be doing. Unseat Google as the guru on the mountain that we ascend to for answers. Well, not unseat. More like make it shift slightly in its seat.

This idea is generated from a few micro-trends. That traditional search engines (meaning, Google), dropped 3% in the second half of 2012 after rising for years. Also, the number of searches per searcher dropped 7%. In addition, spending on search ads dropped 1% in the first quarter, after Google dropped a little over a percentage point in search engine market share over the last year. So lots of dropping.

And those deficits are generally ascribed to mobile and “vertical” search engines. From the article:

No longer do consumers want to search the Web like the index of a book — finding links at which a particular keyword appears. They expect new kinds of customized search, like that on topical sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor or Amazon, which are chipping away at Google’s hold.

And that makes sense. If I want to find a restaurant, plane tickets, or merchandise, I don’t need to search Google. I head right to one of those abovementioned sites. And if I’m on mobile, I’m going right to their apps to find that.

That’s because people on mobile devices search for different reasons.

At home, with the luxury of time and a big screen, maybe you want to learn everything about a restaurant you might visit at some point. But if you’re searching for a restaurant on the go, all you’re looking for is an address, reviews, and a reservation mechanism. And vertical apps are perfect for that. Any extra steps on a mobile device hurts what is often, for so many reasons, an experience always teetering on the frustrating.

And it goes deeper than that. Again, from the article:

“There is a lot of pressure on search engines to deliver more customized, more relevant results,” said Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst at Forrester. “Users don’t need links to Web pages. We need answers, solutions, whatever intel we were searching for.”

Despite all that, searching in silos can get cumbersome and, as the article goes on to point out, Google is working toward addressing it. And, of course, above all players, it’s still in the best position to do that (as we can tell by what a big deal we make out of any slight erosion of its position).

But it’s still another piece of evidence that mobile is driving more and more of our lives.