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Network World - While it appears that the Internet search argument was won decisively by Google, rivals Yahoo and Microsoft haven't given up yet. The two companies formed an alliance in 2009 that will result in Microsoft's Bing search engine powering Yahoo's portal by the end of 2010.
Google handles 71% of all search queries in the United States in May 2010, while Yahoo handles around 15% and Bing around 9%.
Despite its dominant position in search, Google continues to innovate.
In May 2010, Google introduced SSL-based searching to give more privacy to users. The encrypted search service, available as beta code, allows users to hide search terms — but not maps or images — from third parties such as ISPs. Google, however, continues to retain information about end user searches for its own usage.
Google also is enhancing its search capabilities for smartphones, which is likely to be the next battleground for search. Google is concentrating on Android and Apple iPhone platforms, but it has promised to offer its revised search capabilities on other smartphones.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is adding new features to Bing, including real-time mapping data from upstart Foursquare. Bing also added tabs and an answer box, which are designed to differentiate its results from Google's.
The changes to search engines from Google and Microsoft are causing some consternation among users, who typically don't like changes to a service like search that they use so frequently. Some users complained that Google is looking more like Bing with the addition of a new navigation bar, while Bing is adding tabs to look more like Google.
The argument about which search engine is best is going global, with an increasing focus on the fast-growing user base in China.
Google's decision in March 2010 to stop censoring Internet search in China has helped boost the revenues and profitability of China's domestic search engine, Baidu.
Google's other main competitor in China is Alibaba, which has been aligned with Yahoo since 2005. Yahoo owns a 40% stake in Alibaba, and in return Alibaba operates Yahoo China.
Microsoft is muscling into the Chinese market, by pre-loading Bing as the search engine in Android mobile phones sold by Motorola in China.
Where will the next battleground appear? Perhaps Russia, where Google faces stiff competition from the local Yandex search engine.
Read more about software in Network World's Software section.