Is Apple Developing a New Search Engine?

Sep 16, 2020 | Mobile-First, SEO

Off the heels of Apple’s most recent event, highlighting iOS 14 and other new products, Apple is signaling it may soon launch its own search engine, directly competing with Google Search. While there hasn’t been any official announcement to confirm this from an Apple representative, tracking tools have been registering increases in AppleBot crawling websites as part of their Spotlight Search feature. There has also been an update to the AppleBot support page.

Launching a search engine that directly competes against other fellow tech giants, Alphabet, Inc. (Google) and Microsoft (Bing) is major news. Because there was no official announcement at Apple’s most recent event, it’s doubtful that Apple is eyeing a launch in 2020. However, this doesn’t make it any less important to discuss and cover. With so much happening in Big Tech about Privacy and Antitrust laws being breached, users should be aware of how these giants are working to both compete and capture certain markets.

So, Should Apple Have its Own Search Engine?

Search continues to move in a mobile-first direction, making it an appealing addition to Apple’s dominance in the mobile device and operating system marketplace. Naturally, the answer would be – yes, Apple should have it’s own search engine to accompany their products, such as the iPhone. However, the company’s stance on privacy goes against the way the biggest search engines operate. Just think about all the ways Google pulls in user data across all their platforms to serve up ads, which is a central reason for Google’s repeated congressional hearings about antitrust practices.

If we take Apple’s development of a native iOS search engine in good faith, then their history in user data will point to a search engine that is far more ethical regarding user privacy. It raises the question though, if selling user data to advertisers is the main moneymaker for search engines, how does Apple pose to recoup the billions of dollars Google pays to be on iOS? The answer is unclear. However, Apple may be doing this to avoid the same attention Google is receiving from the US government and the subsequent fallout if new laws & regulations are imposed. One could also argue that Apple owning its own search isn’t giving up billions in free profit from Google, it’s gaining something worth billions of dollars to Google. In other words, even if the short term results in an overall loss in profit, the long term results could be huge for Apple.

What Will Apple’s Search Engine Look Like?

Functionally, the goal for all search engines is to provide the best answers in the most user-friendly way possible. Much like Google leveraging Chrome as a source for generating Google Searches, Apple will likely work to rebrand and refresh Safari to act the same way. I think the clear difference is that it will be heavily geared to mobile, especially voice search.

Most know the name Siri, and it’s not by accident – Apple has been working to push voice assistance and searching functionality since acquiring the technology in 2011. In many ways, you can look at this as Apple reinforcing its market share of voice technology against other competition like Amazon’s Alexa.

A Natural Step for Apple – But is it Monopolization?

Apple will argue that they are competing against Google and Amazon with this new search engine. While true, Apple is part of the major tech giants that control the majority of the market. For example, an Apple search engine would lead one to believe that their Map application would become 100% native, essentially ditching Yelp as the aggregator for business info and reviews. Users may relish in this, as it could signal the elimination of additional platforms to be on and to manage – but at what cost? My hope is that Apple remains ethical with privacy, and the cost is not placed on user data.

How Will it impact Search Engine Optimization?

The fundamentals of SEO are consistent across all major platforms, so the short answer is that the impact will be minimal. For the long answer, an Apple search engine represents another place to find new insights and carry out new experiments. It would also give more opportunities to advertise on search, lowering the price to advertise across all search engines as they compete for Ad Clicks.

Our Final, ASTOUNDZing Takeaway

To reiterate, Apple has yet to confirm any launch of a new search engine – despite the overwhelming amount of signals that something is in the works. Apple is one of the only companies in the world that has both the capital and knowledge-base to legitimately compete against Alphabet, Inc., and Google. History shows the company underestimated the challenge of building a maps alternative to Google. Perhaps the painful lessons they learned will prove valuable in this venture.

No matter what happens, showing up when people search for you or your products/services is more important now than ever, literally. Partnering with an SEO/SEM agency will help ensure that you are found on search and ads. Contact ASTOUNDZ if you would like to discuss SEO and how it can be a benefit to your brand/website.


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