With the phrase "Google it" now so entrenched in our everyday language, we tend to think searching Google is the same as searching the web. But Google is just a search engine, meaning it's a tool that displays the information on the internet based on your specific query. In other words, it's a catalog of the internet.
Google was launched as a research project by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1996, and despite trying to sell the idea for less than a million dollars in 1999, it has grown to become the world's most preferred way to search the internet, and one of the most valuable companies in the world.
However, there are many other tools you can use to search the internet, but how legitimate are these other tools? Does anyone even use them?
It turns out that despite Google's dominance of the market, there is still a good bit of search traffic out there which it doesn't own. That may change at some point, but it probably won't happen any time soon. But to give you an idea of what the search industry looks like, we've put together a list of the world's most popular search engines.
Search Engines in 2019 By Global Market Share
What is a Search Engine?
We use search engines as our primary access point to the internet, and this leads many of us to think that search engines are the internet. But they're not.
Instead, they are indexed catalogs of the content that is available on the web, which means that the information displayed through a search engine actually represents just a part of what's out there, although Google does a pretty good job of making sure it indexes as many pages possible.
Search engines work using bots and algorithms to scan the content on the web to determine its quality and relevance to popular search queries. This process is made up of the following three components:
- Spiders. Bots that crawl the web and follow hyperlinks to discover new content.
- Indexes. When the bots find new content, they scan it for relevance using things such as keywords, and they also take a look at some of the page's performance statistics to determine if the content is considered authoritative by the people using the search engine. Based on what they find, they index, or catalog it, so that the search tool can access it when it's demanded by a user.
- Search Interface Software. This is the "homepage" of the search engine. Its job is to read the query you make, find the most relevant information, and display it so that the most relevant results show up first, something which ultimately improves the user's experience.
It's important to understand this definition so that we can distinguish between actually search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!) and sites that look like search engines but that actually aren't (YouTube).
The First Search Engine
For many of us, the first search engines we ever used were Yahoo!, Magellan, Excite, and Northern Light, and for many more of us, Google is the only search engine we've ever known.
However, examples of search engines appeared alongside the first versions of the internet. Examples include "Who is" and the "Knowbot Information System," but these tools relied on indexing individual internet users and not content, meaning one had to manually load the content from their computer onto the search catalog for it to appear in search results.
However, the invention of the World Wide Web in 1993 made it possible for content to be loaded automatically, which opened the door for the rapid rise of search engines that took place throughout the 1990s.
Many of these original tools eventually fell out of relevance, but some have remained until the present day. Now, internet searching has become a major industry; US companies alone shelling out around $70 billion a year on trying to ensure their content ranks at the top of search engine results, a process known as Search Engine Optimization.
The Most Popular Search Engines
The first one is going to be obvious, but some of the names on the rest of this list of the most popular search engines in the world may surprise you.
That Google is the most popular search engine in the world should surprise no one. However, it might surprise you to learn just how big and powerful Google is in the world of internet search. For example:
Part of the reason Google has been able to take such a stranglehold on the market is because it was one of the first search engines to begin selling search terms. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin recognized the value a detailed index of the internet could offer companies early on, and they began selling keyword-related ads in 2000. These are often the first results to appear at the top of a search results page which display the word "Ad."
Google eventually expanded on this and now uses search history and a host of other user-supplied date to display targeted ads for its many partners. This practice provides the bulk of the company's revenue; in 2018, ad revenue generated around $116 billion for Google.
However, despite these impressive statistics about Google's dominance of the search market, Google has succeeded in expanding its presence in our lives by offering a wide range of other products upon which we depend, the most well-known being GMail, Google Docs, and the Android operating system.
These product lines are industry leaders in their own right, and they help show just how important Google has become in our lives today.
Google's top competitor is Bing, which is owned by Microsoft. However, with only about a 5 percent share of the search market, Bing is hardly a serious threat to Google's hegemony. It is the default search engine on Window's PCs (until you log in and change it to Google), but this tactic helps it remain relevant. However, a quick look at the stats show that Bing is far behind in the race.
Currently, Bing receives around 1.3 million unique visitors per day, and only around 10 billion searches a month. To put this in context, Google performs the same amount of monthly Bing searches in just two or three days.
When you search on Bing, it looks almost the same as Google, even if it sometimes displays different results.
Close inspection reveals some more significant differences, but at first glance it's almost impossible to tell the difference between the two. This may be part of the reason why Bing has struggled to claim more market share; it effectively does the same thing as Google but the world is just so used to Google that it doesn't seem to want to change.
Bing does offer a rewards program through Microsoft that allows you to earn points for making purchases through searches, which can be redeemed for discounts and gift cards, but even this hasn't been able to lure people out of Google's grasp.
In the early days, Yahoo! was Google's primary competitor, but things have changed quite a bit over the years. Currently, it holds less than a 4 percent share of the global search market, and Yahoo! Search is now run by Bing, meaning the search results you get from one are likely to be the same if not entirely similar as those you get from the other.
However Yahoo offers other services such as email and fantasy sports and so remains a relevant website in today's world. It currently ranks #9 on the Alexa ranking of the world's most popular websites.
The search engine Baidu has managed to capture less than 1 percent of global search volume, but it is the go-to search tool in China, a country where the internet is restricted and Google is often not even accessible. However, despite these limitations, Baidu is still the fourth most visited site in the world. This reminds us of one irrefutable truth: the Chinese market is enormous.
As a result, this means that while Baidu is a small player in the world of global search, it is a critical component of any search-related marketing strategy targeting the Chinese market.
However, outside of China, Baidu is significantly less relevant. Currently, it only displays results in Chinese, and this makes it difficult to see a scenario in which Baidu is able to carve out market share in other parts of the world, especially considering the dominance of Google.
Similar to Baidu in that it operates primarily in one country, Yandex.ru is one of the top search engines in the Russian Federation. In total, it takes care of about half the searches in Russia, and this gives it about 0.5 percent of the global market share.
However, like Baidu, it's difficult to see Yandex.ru branching out into other markets, although there are possibilities for it to grab a larger percentage of the Russian search market. Despite these limits on its growth, the position of Yandex.ru (which derives its name from "Yet Another Index") in the Russian market makes it an extremely valuable search tool.
It went public in 2011 and raised $1.3 billion, which was the largest public offering in the search engine space since Google went public in 2004, according to Reuters. Today, Yandex generates just under $2 billion in yearly revenue by selling ads much in the same way Google does in other parts of the world.
Since launching in 2010, DuckDuckGo has seen considerable growth in the number of search queries performed on the site. In 2019, it has already handled more than 30 million search queries, which is double what it did in all of 2018.
Part of the reason DuckDuckGo is growing so quickly is that it places an emphasis on security. It does not profile people and cater search results based on what they have queried in the past. This approach is designed to be a direct affront to Google's policies, which many feel infringe personal privacy and give the company too much power.
This search engine will be interesting to watch in the years to come. Its rapid growth in the recent past reflects the general shift towards privacy on the internet, driven by people's desire to have more control over their personal data and what companies know about them. Only time will tell if this strategy allows the search engine to cut into the massive market share Google currently holds.
There are a handful of other search engines still out there, such as Ask (originally AskJeeves) and AOL Search, but these sites deal with such a small portion of global search volume that it's not really worth exploring them further.
However, there are three other websites that generate so much search traffic that it's worth including them on this list, namely, Facebook, Amazon, and YouTube, which is part of Google
These three giants didn't make the original list because their sites aren't complete search engines, meaning they don't index content from all over the web but rather just from their own site.
More specifically, one must load content up to their site before it will appear in search results. This differs from a search engine because to appear in search results all one needs to do is load the content to the internet. The search engine will then find your content and display it if it's relevant, something YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon don't do.
This means the information these sites display to users is considerably narrower in scope, but they possess such a large quantity of information and handle so much web traffic, it's interesting to point out some of their search-related stats.
To demonstrate even further the extent of Google's dominance, consider that the second most popular search engine in the world is YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet, the same company that owns Google. However, despite generating tons of search traffic, the two are quite different, with YouTube specializing in displaying user-uploaded video content.
According to the Alexa ranking, YouTube is the second most popular website in the world, behind only Google. Currently, around 1.3 billion people use YouTube on a monthly basis to watch some 5 billion videos a day. Exact search figures are difficult to ascertain, but we can expect them to be close to the videos watched number, which puts YouTube search traffic not that far off from that of Google's. Pretty incredible considering all it does it display videos.
Because of all this activity, YouTube search traffic is extremely valuable. It provides considerable insight into user preferences and interests, which makes it a great place to showcase targeted ads, the company's primary source of revenue. In total, YouTube generates over $13 billion a year in ad revenue for its parent company, Alphabet.
However, whether or not YouTube is actually a search engine is somewhat up for debate as some argue it is more a social media platform than search engine. But it's difficult to overlook YouTube when compiling a list of the most popular search engines.
Although Amazon is an eCommerce portal that allows you to buy pretty much anything, and, nowadays, have it shipped to your home in as quickly as a day, it is the number one place people go to perform a product search. Google used to hold this spot, but the two companies switched places in 2018, making Amazon the top spot for online shopping-related searches. That someone was able to overtake Google in anything speaks to the influence Amazon has on today's digital world.
Launched as a website where people could connect with friends and find out what they were up to, Facebook is now so much more, and it is becoming increasingly relevant as a search tool. In fact, in 2018, it surpassed Bing in total number of daily searches. However, since Bing and Facebook do different things, we can't say that Facebook has a larger share of global search volume as compared to Bing. It's interesting to see people using Facebook more and more for searching, and we can certainly speculate whether or not they will use this in the future to grow Facebook's reach and bottom line.
When looking at the world of search engines, one thing is clear: Google is king (as well as queen, prince, princess, sultan, premier, prime minister, president, and everything else in between). It consumes so much of the market that its competitors are left with no choice but try to clean up some of the scraps. Websites operating in countries where Google is restricted do well, but in countries where Google operates, it dominates.
Time will tell if this lasts (if we know anything about the tech world it's that there is always someone looking to make waves). But Google's lead is so big that we can expect it to be the top search engine for many years to come, and now that we've seen Google expand into many other corners of the tech space, the only question that remains is: what will it do next?