Making this a story about what I learned during my summer vacation seems juvenile. And yet ... what I learned during our driving trip to Mount Rushmore is that, no matter how much I want to disengage, life isn't the same without Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) .
At various times throughout the trip we used:
- Our Android tablet as a turn-by-turn GPS.
- Our Chromebook to look up destination info.
- Search to find attractions.
- Google Voice for free texting.
- Gmail to stay in touch.
Facebook was also a big part of the trip, but Google owned us. What in years past might have been accomplished via paper maps, brochures, and a few phone calls, we achieved through Google. In thinking about it, I'm reminded of a precursor service: AskJeeves.com, which gained fame by featuring a distinguished butler in its logo.
IAC/InterActiveCorp (Nasdaq: IACI ) acquired AskJeeves years ago, and has since repositioned it as the Q&A search engine we know as Ask.com. Yet it's Google that has become my Jeeves.
Cup of coffee? Check. Lunch? Check. Web search? Check.
Market share statistics say I'm not alone. Google served more than 65% of searches in July, more than double the combined 30.5% served by Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and its Bing search engine, Web tracker comScore reported recently.
But that's only half the story; comScore also says we're searching more. Americans placed 17.1 billion unique queries with search engines last month, up 3% from June.
Think about that for a moment. According to data compiled by the website Internet World Stats, there were 245 million active online users in the U.S. in March. Presuming that total remained consistent through July, the average Web-wielding American searched the Internet about 70 times last month, or about twice a day. Google got at least one of those searches.
Color me unsurprised. Social-media services such as Facebook and Google+ have given us more to sift through. Meanwhile, maps have become more interactive, e-books more plentiful, movie catalogs more user-friendly, and so on. As digital data increases, so too does our need for Google's algorithmic magic.
Addicted to Google? You aren't the only one.
Of course, some of us search more than others (two thumbs up, pointed inward) and it's likely that the most active of us account for the majority of queries. For that group, Google appears to be the drug of choice. How do I know? I don't really, but try searching these three phrases and see what you come up with:
- "Addicted to Google"
- "Addicted to Bing"
- "Addicted to Ask.com"
You know what's coming right? Even if you use Bing to get your results, the first search nets more than 17.9 million hits. The second? 14 results. The third produces just one result -- and an irrelevant one at that. Google ensnares us in ways other services haven't.
Which brings me back to our vacation. Our drive took us from northern Colorado to the relatively desolate plains of eastern Wyoming before turning into South Dakota and beginning the modest ascent into the Black Hills, where Mount Rushmore resides. At least once an hour during the drive we consulted a Google map. Other times we used search or Gmail. Through it all Google was our companion -- just as it us every other day.
Maybe this is what Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett mean when they say Google has a huge competitive advantage. Not only are we using Google more, but the more we use it, the better the service gets.
Do you agree? Disagree? Weigh in using the comments box below. And if you're in the mood for more stock ideas, try this free video. You'll walk away with a better understanding of the cloud-computing revolution that Google is tapping into, as well as a winning pick from our Motley Fool Rule Breakers scorecard. Click here to start watching -- it's 100% free.