In one corner, Google: the search engine titan whose dominance has spawned products, major corporate acquisitions and a place in Merriam-Webster (really, it’s a legitimate verb). In the other, Seznam: a web portal and search engine hybrid whose popularity has grown along with its expanded services and brands. These two heavyweights have been on a collision course in the Czech Republic for some time, competing for dominance in the search engine market amongst the country’s 11 million inhabitants. Harsh words have been exchanged, rankings have been distorted and a country stands divided over which site to use to search for the best knedlicky in Prague. How did it come to this?
Before answering that loaded question, some explanation is required on how Seznam came to exist. It originated as a site similar to the American Yellow Pages in 1996, and since its foundation, it has transformed into a full-fledged conglomerate, online source with 15 different services and associated brands (Seznam.cz Wikipedia page). Along with very few other companies, Seznam was the number one search engine in its respective region of the world.
At first glance, Seznam seems to resemble a Czech version of Yahoo or AOL. Though my Czech fluency is practically non-existent, it’s easy to determine that the site is a multipurpose machine; you can access email, weather, news and maps all on one page. The obvious exclusivity that comes with the site is that it’s only for Czech people—it’s apparent that no foreign invaders are allowed. For these reasons, it’s no wonder that in late 2010, 3.98 million users in the Czech Republic utilized the site, or 68% of the country’s total Internet population (courtesy of Netmonitor.cz).
This obviously did not flow with Google’s quest for total global tech domination. In retaliation for this thrashing, the team at Google released their computed statistics shortly thereafter through their data sourcing site, Effectix.com, proving that overall, they generated more users through their search engine rather than Seznam (that data is provided here). Seznam retaliated, stating alongside credible Czech online blogs, that those numbers were distorted by “bad data” and that Google was not providing “demonstrable facts” to back their claims (quotes here). Google’s own response was to close this supposed gap, creating a marketing campaign that bombarded television and made the search engine more appealing to the younger Czech generation (Google “Paris” TV ad). This, folks, leads to the current search engine battle royale of the century.
So who’s winning the war now? It’s a tough call to make, especially since both sides are gaining equal grounds with their respective users. Seznam is old school, appealing to the 35 and over crowd with their additional resources and obvious cultural advantage (hard to understand the Czech people if you’re not an actual Czech); but Google represents the new generation ready to move on and create a more globalized, technologically advanced population that melds with the Western world. Let’s just hope that this type of war doesn’t destroy the Czech progress that’s already been made.