Is this time different? Giants are fighting again in the search market


Since the PC era, after Baidu unified the search world, China's search field has been without war for several years. However, recently, as giants such as ByteDance, WeChat, and Alibaba have entered the game intensively, the search track has witnessed a long-lost excitement.

This year, in the 2021 WeChat Open Class, "Search" (also known as Sou Yi Sou in Chinese) was unveiled as one of the six major products of the WeChat ecosystem. Later, Douyin released an annual video during the Spring Festival, focusing on the concept of "video search".

Mobile Taobao also recently underwent a major version update, placing the search function at the top of the main page of the product, which is an important position. Internet giants like Baidu and Toutiao are making frequent moves around the upgrade of "search" capabilities.

This seems to be a second competition to seize the search market. The reason why the giants can get together and enter the game is far more than just capturing the market share.


Giants pile up to do search, are engaged in what?

When it comes to search, we may first think of a search box. This is the solidified way for users to interact with the search interface in the PC era.

In this year's WeChat Open Class, Samuel, the product leader of WeChat Search, said "search should not be framed, it should appear in every place where curiosity arises."
In order to break the limitation of "boxes", WeChat has made a series of new attempts in search form since last year. For example, many search needs come from daily communication between people, so WeChat launched a fingertip search function last September.

If you encounter knowledge blind spots while chatting, just press and hold the message bubble and click "Search" in the menu to check. Samuel said that WeChat wants to make it possible to search while chatting, and send it directly to friends after searching, without interrupting the chat scene.

In addition to the fingertip search, WeChat has another major attempt in the search function, which is "# Search". By entering a "#" while chatting and adding any keyword to send, an intelligent search hyperlink will be formed.

The key of the search upgrade is to break away from the limitation of "box", refine the implementation of search function to specific scenarios, and adapt the corresponding search form.

In addition to the search input form, the optimization of search results is also extremely critical.

Before the 618 promotion this year, Taobao is updated with a major version. The most obvious change in this update is that the search bar appears prominently at the top of the App homepage.

In the past, using Taobao search, the result of the jump was a row of products, which aggregated many information including price, number of purchasers, product introduction and so on. After this version update, the search information delivered to users is more intelligent.

For example, if you search for "lipstick", what appears in the front row is not a lipstick product, but a recommendation of popular lipstick numbers in 2021. If you search for "red wine", the first information displayed is the classification of red wine. Newbie who does not understand red wine can also obtain certain knowledge through searching.

If it is a long decision link that focuses on offline products, such as sanitary ware, furniture and other categories, the first screen of the search results is the advertising business, which may be based on the user's geographic location to recommend the nearest offline store.

There will be obvious differences in search results for different categories. The structure and intelligence of search results are also the internal skills that the giants are practicing in this round of upgrading the search.

For a long time, all kinds of search delivery results are mostly pictures and text. Today, the Internet content is experiencing a leap from graphics to video, as the main way to access information, search is also gradually becoming video.

Based on this background, Douyin launched an annual video for the Spring Festival this year. From searching for popular science knowledge, travel records, to life experience in the parenting workplace, this video highlights the usage scenarios of Douyin video search.

According to Zhang Nan, the president of Douyin, video is becoming an important way for human knowledge to accumulate, and video search is the index of this encyclopedia. In May 2018, Douyin launched its first search portal. So far, the monthly active users of Douyin video search has reached 550 million.

Iteration of content forms promotes innovation in the way people obtain information. And this is the third trend of search upgrades nowadays.


A competition of ecological search capabilities

From communication tools, e-commerce platforms, to short video platforms, this round of transformation for search functions spans different fields, product types, and media forms, but they are essentially doing one thing - strengthening ecological search ability.

An industry insider explained that the giants first optimized content aggregation search based on existing content, and then the platform understood user needs based on these search behaviors in order to provide more precise services and achieve a positive cycle of search ecology.

Taking WeChat as an example, when introducing "Search", Samuel emphasized, "We are not doing an independent search engine today, but a part of the WeChat ecosystem."

At the beginning, the "Search" team only provided a finder function for WeChat official accounts, and then users had the demand to search for official account articles, moment, and city services, so the team made up these functions accordingly. With the gradual prosperity of the mini program ecology, "Search" also supports the search of mini program accounts and contents.

Samuel summarized the three keywords of WeChat Search - scene, algorithm, and ecology. " We believe that search must be seamlessly connected to all use scenarios of WeChat. WeChat's unique ecology provides a wealth of content. We must use our own unique methods to identify high-quality content and services and present them to users. "

It is no coincidence that other giants are thinking along the same lines in terms of search upgrades.

According to media reports, at the end of April this year, Alibaba also established an intelligent information business group in addition to the search optimization on the product side of Taobao. This new business group is based on the original innovative business business group. Its core products include Quark Search, UC Browser, Book Banner Novels, etc. The main purpose is to focus on intelligent innovation in the direction of information services.

In the era of mobile Internet, users' search behavior is no longer satisfied with simple information acquisition, but after acquiring information through search, they can get a richer service experience. As a result, even the Baidu App also upgraded its slogan to "Baidu for a Better Life" in April this year to emphasize the service value behind search.

An industry insider said that the competition in the search market will not be single, but will be refined to more scenarios, which is a competition to meet more specific professional needs and a competition for ecological search capabilities in the future. "Smart tools + content + service" is a new model for searching products in the future.

Since the PC era, after Baidu unified the search world, China's search field has been peaceful for several years. But this does not mean that people's search needs have been fully satisfied. In fact, people's demand for search will not die out, it just needs newer technology and ideas to liberate.

This is an article from WeCaht official accounts GeekPark (ID:geekpark), written by Wan Mingyu, translated by Chris Yuan.