Is Google's (GOOG) U.S. Search Dominance at Risk from an Unlikely Source?

August 30, 2012 2:38 PM EDT
In a very loosely connected way, today's pressure on Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), IAC/InterActive (Nasdaq: IACI), and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) might be attributable to one unlikely source:


Earlier in the session Thursday, Walmart (NYSE: WMT) unveiled its new, made in-house search engine, Polaris. In the release, Walmart said, "Built from the ground up by @WalmartLabs, the research and technology hub for innovation at Walmart, the engine uses semantic search technology to anticipate the intent of a shopper's search to deliver highly relevant results for them."

Though its currently tailored for its site, whether or not Walmart wants the search engine to be more widely used in the future is unknown. The retail giant said its already seen a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in shoppers completing a purchase, though specific revenue gains weren't mentioned.

Given Walmart's size and scale, it could disrupt other search engines if it decided to fully develop Polaris and roll it out as a separate entity or possibly license its use to other large retailers (unlikely, if Walmart wants to sell more items).

Other potential casualties include (Nasdaq: AMZN) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY). Both rely on relevance and shopping history when doing searches or recommending items. If Walmart ends up producing more relevant search results, consumers might shift over due to the ability of finding items more easily.

Shares of all companies mentioned a lower Thursday.

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