Apple Allegedly Developing Alternative to Google Search

Posted on October 28, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Cloud, Google, Mobile, iOS with 16 Comments

A new report claims that Apple is working to create an alternative to Google Search for use on the iPhone and its other devices.

The in-house search technology is apparently a hedge against an expected antitrust ruling against Google, according to The Financial Times, which cites evidence in iOS 14 and elsewhere but no actual sources.

According to the publication, a little-noticed change in iOS 14 includes Apple’s own search results alongside those from Google and other sources. “That web search capability marks an important advance in Apple’s in-house development and could form the foundation of a fuller attack on Google, according to several people in the industry,” The Financial Times claims, rather nebulously. It further claims that “the move adds to growing evidence that it is working to build a rival to Google’s search engine.”

That evidence, such as it is, includes Apple’s 2018 hiring of John Giannandrea, a former Google Search executive, which the firm said was about boosting the artificial intelligence capabilities of the Siri virtual assistant, its “frequent job advertisements for search engineers,” and increased activity from Applebot, Apple’s web crawler. Applebot is “used to build the vast database of online material that forms the foundation of any search engine,” the publication says.

Replacing Google Maps with Apple Maps was daunting enough—and one might argue that the product is still vastly inferior almost a decade later—but replacing Google Search seems like an insurmountable goal. But as The Financial Times notes, Apple’s vast profits and cash reserves provide it with a unique opportunity to do just that. Or at least try.

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Comments (16)

16 responses to “Apple Allegedly Developing Alternative to Google Search”

  1. xanth

    I don't understand why they wouldn't just buy DuckDuckGo or some other 2nd or 3rd tier search platform?

  2. peterc

    As much as I dont trust google much, ive become as suspicious of apple in recent times. apples privacy play is true to a certain extent, but they collect as much user data as google does, but commercialise it differently, and it would appear mainly for their own marketing services/content/products use.

    apple bombard me with commercial product and service advertising constantly every day. An apple search engine would make this worse in my opinion.

    • eric_rasmussen

      In reply to peterc:

      I like Apple's products and I love their attention to detail. They've got great engineers and designers and probably the best marketing group on the planet. What I don't like is their weird fake-ness; I'm not sure how to describe it, but it's this feeling that this seemingly great company is actually propped up by child labor and totalitarian rule over employees' lives whether they are at work or at home. That feeling makes me not trust them implicitly. I don't get that feeling at all from Google. I feel like Google is a huge group of people who are really smart and figured out how to make a ton of money, and that's about it. Now those people are building things like Flutter, Go, and Firebase.

  3. Pbike908

    Google Maps beats any other map app hands down. Google search also beats any other search. I have tried Bing and Duck Duck Go. Both are decent, however, I always return to Google search and one of the main reasons is its integration with Google maps.

    • reefer2

      In reply to Pbike908:

      They beat them hands down because Google services are by far and "hands down" the most intrusive, privacy wise, of them all, thats not a good thing.

      • Pbike908

        In reply to reefer2:

        I am a bit confused about what all the noise is about privacy. We are all traced so many ways and are in so many databases that the train has already left the station. We are tracked by our credit card companies and cell phone carriers. Since we are in our friends contact lists, who knows how many times our contact info has been shared through apps. Not to mention our past actions are already in numerous databases. I guess I understand the concern. However, in reality there is nothing to realistically be done at this point unless EVERY government in the world agrees to universal blocking and that is just isn't going to happen. I accept tracking as a fact of modern life. Perhaps it's not good, but what are you gonna do. What I do is limit how long Google can store my data (who knows of they truly delete it) and I always disable personalized ads. If everyone disabled personalized ads I would imagine this would go a long way to making tracking a moot issue to advertisers.

        • bkkcanuck

          In reply to Pbike908:

          The tracking should be no more granular than it was in the old days - and only if you opt in to it. (i.e. Sex, Age range (13 -17; 18 -> 25; 25 -> 40; that sort of granularity) and region that you live in (generally), and potential areas of interest (cars, computers)). If the US/Canada and the EU worked out a common legal framework - it would go a long way. We don't need to allow the micro targetting where you are basically individually identifiable. The right to privacy should get the same treatment as a constitutional right. Now-days with the installation of cookies that can track you -- it is equivalent to someone installing a GPS tracker on your car - I don't see much difference... and I would hope that the legal framework would never allow that to happen (as an individual car).

  4. simont

    I would assume they are going to buy somebody like DuckDuckGo. Developing the search engine and building the index starting now would be a long project.

  5. Chris_Kez

    I'd rather Apple focus on continuing to improve the maps app. The map part of Apple maps is much improved, but I still find the POI information (e.g. business names, addresses, hours, contact info, etc.) and the search within maps well behind Google; worse yet, it kicks you out to Yelp if you want to dip into the photos, reviews or menu.

  6. scovious

    When the online ad markets finally re-stabilize post antitrust rulings, I suspect many more Search Engines will be able to make profit and market share. While flashy marketing may never overcome basic muscle memory or the older folks who are conditioned to use Google search, in the future owning the default search engine via a browser will be the only thing that matters. Apple will do to Google Maps what they did with Apple Maps, and iPhones will be better for it in my opinion. But it took Microsoft many long years to copy popular Google search features like Image Search, and in the meantime every UI innovation or search improvement like infinite scrolling in photo search was just copied by Google. It's not going to be an overnight race clearly. Hopefully Antitrust rulings will even the playing fields.

  7. SvenJ

    I imagine when you search, it will respond with "here is what I found on Google for you."

  8. glenn8878

    I began to use Apple Maps over Google Maps after noticing how it works together with Apple Watch. The watch will vibrate at each turn direction and show the next step. This is a major improvement and advantage over Google Maps.

  9. txag

    It took a while, but Apple Maps are pretty good now; I’ve used them for half a dozen cross country trips and they have been accurate and useful.

    So if I had to predict, the first year or so of Apple Search would be ragged, but then it would improve to the point where it is useful. Plus, an aim in my life is to become 100% Google-free, and that would make it a bit easier.

  10. harrymyhre

    Apple Maps failed me comically last summer. I was parked at a supermarket near Ventura, California. I asked Siri “navigate to Ventura harbor”. Apple Maps wanted me to drive to San Pedro like 60 miles away.

    but I applaud apple for trying. There’s no law that says google has to have world domination. And there are plenty of comp sci graduates every year. You don’t think those kids want to one up google?