Apple is famous for venturing into new projects that dramatically transform the market and reshape the customer experience.
One of the most controversial (yet unconfirmed) projects is a new search engine platform that may have the potential to shift the market dynamic and challenge the dominance of Google.
Here’s what we know about Apple’s potential new endeavor.
Why would Apple be interested in launching a search engine?
Currently, Google is the leading search engine market with a market share of 86.6% for 2020, the company has generated $181 billion in revenue. The majority of the search engine’s revenue is accumulated through advertising, and that’s a significant reason for other tech giants such as Apple to attempt to enter the market and look for opportunities for similar growth.
Google is a default search engine for Apple’s Safari on all its platforms connecting the two companies in a partnership that often means the two have legal non-compete obligations, especially when concerns around policy and practices are raised.
Google has recently been involved in legal issues around allegations from the US Department of Justice that the company is favoring its own services over more-specialized competitors in the search result. That, however, is the type of attention any brand prefers to avoid and could potentially be a reason for Apple’s attempt to distance itself from Google, by creating their own search engine service.
Apple vs Google
To keep its position as Apple’s Safari default search engine, Google has been investing significant sums – reportedly as much as $12 billion per year, and that investment has been worth it since Apple’s Safari is currently the most popular mobile browser in the US with a market share of 54%, followed by Google’s owned Chrome. If Apple decides to move forward with creating a search engine that will rival their service, Google will be in a difficult situation. Apple will also be affected by a loss of Google’s investment.
On the other hand, Apple’s unmatched popularity with users gives experts the confidence to say that a search engine developed by Apple could be a game-changer, firmly establishing the smartphone giant as an influential competitor to Google.
For SEO companies that will create the need for new search engine optimization strategies and approaches ensuring good Apple ranking. The difference between Apple and Google being that the first will focus on practices of optimizing websites to rank in the top results of Apples’ search results.
Hear-say is of course not enough to conclude that Apple is looking to develop its own search platform. Nonetheless, the company has been busy with projects that indicate such intentions:
Apple hiring search engineers
The recruitment of John Giannandrea, the former Google head of search, by Apple is a reason for experts to comment on the company’s perceived intention of creating their own search engine.
Giannandrea joined Apples’ team in 2018 and since has been heading the machine learning and AI strategy for the brand. As part of the executive team, his work focuses on products like Core ML for iOS app developers and a dedicated AI chip that’s reportedly under development.
What’s more, Apple has listed over 150 job positions for its Siri team, which is another indication that the company is preparing for something big.
Apple’s ‘Applebot’ increased crawling activities
Applebot is the giant’s web crawler for features like Siri and iOS/macOS Spotlight suggestions. Launched in 2014, the crawler was somewhat of an obscure feature but that has recently changed.
Reports, point out that Applebot’s activity lately has increased tremendously and the crawler has begun appearing on multiple businesses’ web pages – indicating that Apple’s is probably preparing for a major event.
Latest Applebot support updates
In July 2020, Apple published information on its web crawler’s latest updates. The changes published on Applebot’s support page started a discussion around how similar they were to the details Google provides to webmasters and SEOs.
Here are a few of the factors that Applebot now uses to rank search results:
- Web pages design
- Number and quality of backlinks
- Accumulated user engagement
- Relevancy of searches with webpage content
- Location of the user
Besides updating ranking factors of webpages, the company provided information that included – how to verify traffic from Applebot.
Further, they’ve expanded details on the Applebot user agent – including the difference between mobile and desktop versions. They’ve also included details on how they don’t just crawl HTML, but also render pages.
iOS introduces search feature
iOS 14 includes a feature that helps users to access search results straight through Spotlight search, designed as a single destination for finding, and launching apps, contacts, and files.
The most relevant search results appear at the top of the search interface with suggestions being provided as the users start typing.
Unlike previous versions, where queries were opened in Safari and displayed as results in Google, on iOS14 the search results are directly displayed on Spotlight search, completely bypassing Google.
Apple’s search engine will probably be more of a personalized data hub, deeper integration with the operating system, and be completely private.
That would benefit users as they will not only continue to rely on keeping their data private but integrate the service with their iCloud data, delivering results based on messages, photos, events, music, and other personal interests – without the need for third-party apps, and compromise on their privacy.
For instance, right now Apple suggests content to users based not only on what they’ve clicked on but also on content related to topics they spend the most time viewing or reading.