Relax, Google's drop in search market share in April was just an illusion

Decline shown in data from StatCounter attributed to 'anomaly'

Google's share of web searches appeared to suffer an unusually large drop in April, according to StatCounter. But the metrics biz now says that's incorrect.

The Chocolate Factory's share of the US search market across all platforms appeared to slip to 77.52 percent in April, from 86.94 percent in March. It hasn't been that low since 2009. On a global basis, the StatCounter figures also showed a notable drop – from 91.38 percent in March to 86.99 percent in April.

Google's supposed loss appeared to be Microsoft's gain: Bing's long-languishing US search market share seemingly jumped from 8.04 percent in March to 13.07 percent in April. Yahoo (which uses Bing) also appeared to grow too – reaching 7.3 percent in the US in April from 2.48 percent in March. A similar if less pronounced shift was noted globally as well.

Brave Search independently said it has seen search share growth, making the StatCounter figures seem more plausible. "Brave Search serves nearly ten billion queries a year, making it the fastest-growing search engine since Bing," a spokesperson told The Register.

Search Engine Land called the Google numbers "shocking" if true, while voicing suspicion about the results.

We asked StatCounter to confirm its figures and according to its CEO Aodhan Cullen there was a problem.

"There was an anomaly in our sample data for April," Cullen told The Register. "We are currently isolating that anomaly and we'll republish the stats shortly. Early indications are that there will be no significant change in April share once that anomaly has been removed."

Microsoft announced last year that it was "reinventing search with a new AI-powered Microsoft Bing and Edge." As we noted in January, Bing didn't have much to show for Redmond's substantial investment. And now it seems not much has changed.

Efforts to shoehorn AI into the search business initially didn't go well for Google either. Despite a rocky start with its Search Generative Experience (SGE), Sundar Pichai – who presides over Google and its parent Alphabet – argues that Google Search is growing rather than shrinking, at least among those who opt in.

"Most notably, based on our testing, we're encouraged that we're seeing an increase in Search usage among people who use the new AI overviews, as well as increased user satisfaction with the results," Pichai revealed during the ad biz's recent earnings call.

Google, Microsoft, and other firms that bet heavily on AI remain convinced that machine learning models can be tamed to address user queries without telling people to eat toxic mushrooms. But that doesn't mean searchers will welcome AI-generated content, as infrastructure automation biz Pulumi recently found.

In any event, the need to cite sources and assess information provenance – in serious disciplines if not fact-challenged social media – means traditional search results that link to specific documents and websites will see continued usage.

As we reported earlier this year, search is changing and rivals that have chafed under Google's dominance see an opportunity.

And it's not just down to AI hype and the need to recoup investment. Relentless legal and regulatory pressure is forcing Google to make concessions – like implementing browser and search choice screens on Android devices in the EU. Such changes appear to have had an effect.

If the US prevails in its antitrust trial against Google, which is just wrapping up, the search landscape could see a bit more competition.

Meanwhile, Google continues to dominate the search market. ®

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