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Will the rise of voice search be the downfall of Google?

Since its launch in 1998, Google has dominated the internet search market, with more than 70% of all online searches being made on Google in most countries. While its business has been built on monetising their search pages by showing ads, search is changing and people are becoming increasingly comfortable talking to their devices, which could put Google’s main form of income under threat.

There used to be a time when people felt awkward talking to machines, with machines equally having as much trouble understanding us: try asking Siri for a restaurant suggestion in a regional accent and you could get some very interesting results. However, this is no longer the case. People have become increasingly comfortable talking to their phones and home hub devices, and alongside this, developers have in turn created better voice recognition software. You no longer have to ask your questions five times in various accents to get an answer. Due to these improvements, the number of devices that allow people to search using just their voice has expanded, with Siri, Alexa, and Google Home Hub the top three. So, how is the developing phenomena of people talking to devices changing search and how it is monetised?

The first and most important thing to note is that many of these new devices are speakers and therefore screenless. This lack of screen puts pressure on Google’s whole search business model: no screen means no search results page ads. Google is trying to combat this by launching a Smart Display assistant that puts the ‘visual first’ and is encouraging app developers to add richer visuals to make a more engaging experience.

Google also faces another challenge. The Amazon Echo, which uses Bing, dominates the home hub marker with a 75% share. Therefore, Google has a long way to go before it catches up with Amazon in this particular battle ground.

All Response Media viewpoint

Things may not be completely bleak for Google. These hub devices are still in their infancy and the technology has a long way to go on its journey to ubiquity. People may find a hub device that combines speakers and screen to be more convenient. Also, only 10% of households own one of these devices, so they are not yet mainstream, with the majority of people still opting to use their phones. Furthermore, Google still dominates in areas where screens are a necessity, for example, Google Maps, which Google has also monetised with ads. Finally, Google still handles around 75% of all internet searches and is therefore by far the most dominant player in a screen setting.

Therefore, I do not believe that Google has anything to worry about just yet. These screenless devices are not yet mainstream and Google still dominates the online search market. However, as these screenless devices become more popular, Google is going to have to start making changes.