Google (search) is dying: former Google SA head

Former Google SA boss, Stafford Masie, says search query volumes are moving to “social containers” such as Facebook and Twitter

By - February 5, 2012
Google Grim Reaper

The former head of Google South Africa, Stafford Masie, thinks Google’s traditional business in search is shrinking and they’ve got to do something about it.

Speaking at the 2012 Product of the Year awards held at Summer Place, Sandton, last week (2 February 2012), Masie dropped a bombshell: “Google is dying,” he said.

He qualified the statement, explaining that people are using social platforms like Facebook and Twitter and asking questions there because they get more dynamic and personalised results.

Masie related an anecdote of a recent trip to New York, where instead of searching on Google for a place to eat he received recommendations from his connections on Facebook.

The result he got through the social network by querying his contacts rather than a search engine provided him with a better result, Masie said.

Stafford Masie

Stafford Masie

In a follow-up interview, Masie emphasised that Google itself isn’t dying. “The pie of search query volumes in the world, that business is shrinking,” he said.

As an example, Masie pointed to Siri, the natural language speech interface Apple bundled with the iPhone 4S. Siri uses Google as a last resort, Masie said, preferring results from other technologies before it starts using Google to get data back to the user.

“That’s a worrying factor,” Masie said.

It’s not that traditional search is not valuable or that consumers aren’t using it anymore, Masie said. “I just believe that’s not where it’ll be in the future.”

Masie is not alone in his belief that search as we know it is in decline. After the incorporation of Facebook “likes” into Microsoft’s Bing search results last year (2011), the director of Bing told Huffington Post that traditional search is failing.

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