History repeats itself

Back in the early-ish days of the commercial Internet (circa 95), we were talking about the browser wars to describe the fight between then-leader Netscape Navigator and Microsoft’s upstart Internet Explorer. Should we start talking about the search engine wars as Overture and Google are about to go head to head in a new set of battles?

On the left, you’ve got Google, the 2000 pounds gorilla of search which is now looking to expand its advertising program beyond its site and is fighting to not have its name associated with searching on the Internet. However, playing to its advantage is that it now owns a patent on its ranking technology.

On the right, you’ve got Overture, which once had a business that most people figured would fail (after all, who would pay for a placement in a search engine?) but somehow managed to prove the naysayers wrong and is now going out and buying itself a new seat at the search table.

At stake is the future of search but it may be much more. It looks like the market is reshaping itself to become not just about search but also about targeting. Give the right search result, attach the right ad, and all of a sudden you’ve got a redefinition of online advertising networks. The funny thing is that we’ve been there before. This was what Doubleclick promised but eventually abandoned due to privacy concerns. I suspect that the search engines are headed in a similar direction and that history might repeat itself here (and I suspect that we may see more people starting to worry about privacy issues similar to those that plagued Doubleclick a few years ago.

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