The Search Engine Business Model
business model of search engines hinges on collecting data about users and
transforming that data into revenue. Although all major search engines are free
to use, the personal data that consumers reveal to search engine companies can
be worth huge amounts of money.
data allows search engines to target ads toward users. Most people think of Google
as an internet search company, but in many respects it is really an advertising company. Searches provide Google’s
main source of data collection about consumers (the company’s other services,
like the Google+ social network and the Gmail email platform, help as well),
but its primary revenue-generating activity centers on using that data to serve
Google, of course, is just the largest of several major search engine
companies. Yahoo!, Bing and other search providers operate according to the
same business model.
contend that the existing search engine business model is unfair for consumers
because search engine providers profit enormously off of the data that they
collect from users and in return offer only search results.
complain that companies like Google,
which controls about three-quarters of the internet
search market, exert an undue influence over the digital content that users
consume. By displaying particular sites at the top of search results lists, a
search engine enjoys considerable control over which sites’ services reach the
Disrupting the Search Industry
these criticisms, the search engine industry has prospered unimpeded for about 20
years. Apart from regulatory challenges such as the European Union’s case against
have been no serious challenges to the search engine business model.
startups hope to change this. By decentralizing search information and making
ranking data transparent, blockchain entrepreneurs seek to provide a search
experience that protects the privacy of users while also ensuring that search
result rankings are free of bias.
Presearch is one such startup. Aiming to provide an “open,
decentralized search engine,” the project plans to build a distributed system
of nodes that will crawl the web, construct an index of online content and
deliver search results based on it.
to relying on a distributed, decentralized network of search nodes, Presearch
plans to use tokens to reward users for contributing to the development of its
platform in various ways. In this sense, the project itself is highly
decentralized from an organizational standpoint, too.
BitClave takes a somewhat different
approach to disrupting the online search industry. Rather than building a
decentralized search engine to replace the likes of Google, it aims instead to
keep the money that users generate when they perform a search in the searchers’
platform will do this by allowing users, by their choice, to share search data
with advertisers. In return, BitClave compensates users with digital currency
sense, BitClave is similar to the Brave web browser, which blocks ads by default and
rewards users for choosing to display them. Both platforms place decisions
about the sharing of personal data in the hands of consumers and ensure that
when users give up their data, they receive financial compensation in return.
remains to be seen whether enough users are fed up with traditional search
engines and the data they collect in exchange for search results of sometimes
questionable partiality. Presearch and BitClave both remain under development.
They have GitHub pages (which you can find here
but relatively little code to show so far.
if the ambitions of these blockchain startups currently loom larger than their
implementations, it seems a fairly safe bet that they will help to change the
way that millions of people consume digital content. The search industry is
ripe for change, and blockchain technology may be the source of disruption it