As US antitrust authorities threatened Google’s billion-dollar payments to ensure its engine’s priority on the iPhone, Apple is stepping up its efforts to develop its own search technology.
In a little-known change to the latest version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 14, Apple began displaying its own search results and linking directly to the website when users type in queries from its home screen.
According to industry insiders, this web search function marks an important advancement in Apple’s internal development and may form the basis for a more comprehensive attack on Google.
The Silicon Valley company is notoriously secretive of its internal projects, but this move adds more and more evidence that the company is trying to build a competitor with the Google search engine.
Two and a half years ago, Apple poached Google̵
If regulators prevent its profitable partnership with Google, the company’s growing internal search capabilities provide it with another option. When the US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit last week, the plan increased urgency because Google’s payment to Apple became the iPhone’s default search tool.
“they [Apple] Bill Coughran, the former engineering director of Google, said that he has a reliable team and if they want, I have the experience and depth to build a more general search engine. He is now a partner of Silicon Valley investor Sequoia Capital.
Apple’s often ambitious job advertisements for search engineers invite candidates to “define and implement the architecture of Apple’s breakthrough search technology.”
Search marketing experts also pointed out that the iPhone maker’s once obscure web crawler Applebot’s activity is increasing, which is used to build a huge online database of information that forms the basis of any search engine.
Suganthan Mohanadasan, a digital marketing consultant, said that in recent weeks, Applebot “appeared many times” on its clients’ websites. “When the crawl speed increases, it shows that we are trying to gather more information.”
Most importantly, iOS 14 pushes some of Google’s search functions aside. Swipe to the right from the iPhone’s home screen (Apple calls it the “Today View”) to access the query in the search window, which displays a list of search suggestions generated by Apple instead of Google search results. These results include “auto-complete”-style suggestions produced by Apple, indicating that Apple is learning from the most common queries of its 1 billion users.
Apple declined to comment.
It may take several years to establish a real competitor with the Google search engine. However, according to the latest data, this year’s profit is expected to exceed 55 billion U.S. dollars, with a net cash reserve of 81 billion U.S. dollars. Apple has the ability to make long-term investments.
Historically, Apple has tried to own and control the most important components of its products, from custom chips that power iPhone, AirPods and Watch accessories, to tight integration between software and hardware.
However, for more than a decade, Apple has insisted on using Google as the default search engine for the iPhone.
But now, Apple’s motivation to change this situation is getting stronger, because regulators force it to choose between defending its relationship with Google or its long-term partners in the search field.
The U.S. Department of Justice has used Google’s estimated annual payments of 8 to 12 billion U.S. dollars as the default search engine for the iPhone, and has become the center of its antitrust case against Internet groups.
Sharis Pozen, the joint head of the global antitrust practice of Clifford Opportunity Law Firm and the former acting assistant attorney general of the U.S. Department of Justice, said that the case “opened another front for Apple,” while playing an epic game. The company (Epic Games) and others fought a legal battle over its role as the gatekeeper of the App Store. She said: “Apple will take center stage here.” She added that in explaining why it gets billions of dollars in revenue from Google, it must “take a fine line.”
She said that the U.S. Department of Justice may require the termination of the exclusive agreement to allow others to equally access the iPhone’s search default settings.
Apple had inadvertently competed with Google before. When Apple Maps was first launched in 2012, it was so error-prone that Scott Forstall, one of the top vice presidents of the company’s late co-founder Steve Jobs Forced to resign.
But Apple is one of the few companies that has the resources to index the web from scratch. Most of Google’s smaller competitors have obtained permission for its indexing from Microsoft’s Bing, including DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused company that Apple can already offer in the Safari browser as Google’s Alternative products, and Neeva, a Silicon Valley startup founded by two former Google executives.
“Apple’s position is very unique because it owns the iPhone and iOS. It controls the default browser.” said Sridhar Ramaswamy, co-founder of Neeva and a former head of advertising at Google. He said expanding search is “natural” for Apple because of its ability to collect data and learn from user behavior on a large scale.
Coughland said that more than 20 years after Google was founded, building a search engine “is still technically very difficult, but not as difficult as before.” He is one of the investors who invested $35 million in the Neva River (Neeva). Part of the reason is that start-ups such as Apple and Neeva can use cheaper cloud computing infrastructure and open source tools.
Nevertheless, the severity of the problem remains daunting. Ramaswamy said: “Any reasonable search engine must have 20-50 billion pages in its active index.” When users run queries, the retrieval system must filter large amounts of data and then treat them in milliseconds. Perform ranking.
Some observers still disagree with the idea of Apple and Google establishing a complete search competitor.
Dan Wang, associate professor of business at Columbia University School of Business, said it would be “extremely difficult” to catch up with Apple.
He said: “Google’s advantage comes from scale.” Because endless user feedback helps to adjust the results and identify areas for improvement. “Google receives hundreds of millions of queries from users all over the world every minute and every minute-this is a huge advantage in terms of data.”
Richard Waters’ other reports in San Francisco