There were a handful of reasons why Google was able to surpass all the other search engines. Google was better than others in *all* of these aspects. If it were better in just one or two of these, it would have been harder for Google to surpass others, but being better at all of these made it an easy choice for users to switch to it.
- Speed: Google was 5–10x faster than its competitors when returning search results. Users didn’t even imagine search could be this fast before Google came along. Google also showed off how fast it was at the top of the search results (e.g. “0.38 seconds”), further reinforcing to the user what they were good at.
- Much deeper index: Google also crawled a lot more webpages than its competitors leading to a richer set of results. This is another thing they showed on top of the search results (e.g. “About 14,800,000 results”) to convince users that they are bigger and better.
- Relevance of results: Google’s results were clearly more relevant than their competitors. Their unique PageRank algorithm was an important part of this, but there were other important factors that went into their ranking algorithm as well.
- Simplicity of interface: All the other search engines had very cluttered UIs with banner ads and other distractions. Google, in contrast, presented a minimalistic and clean interface where search was the only thing that you focussed on.
- Query-specific snippets: This seems minor in hindsight, but Google was the first search engine that displayed snippets on results that showed you what part of the result matched the query. This was very useful in figuring out which results were relevant and which weren’t by just looking at the search results page.
- Single-minded focus on search and continued iteration on it over time: This to me, is the most important reason from this list. The search engine has been Google’s main product since the beginning and was its only product for the first few years. This single-minded focus on a single area usually works wonders for companies when it comes to product development. After it became the dominant search engine, Google didn’t rest on its laurels and slow down product development on search. Instead, they doubled the efforts and invested heavily in further improving search by doing things such as building a well-oiled A/B testing framework, investing in datacenter technology, figuring out their monetization strategy etc. All of these were game-changers in the context of search too.
Also relevant here is why other search engines weren’t able to catch up to Google after it first achieved its dominant position. I’ve written about the reasons for that here: Why hasn’t Bing improved to become better than Google?
Originally published on Quora