Some folk in Connecticut, US, will be scratching their heads as feverishly as they are digging their way through the snow this weekend after Google named the metasearch firm Kayak on its list of competitors.
The Norwalk, CT-based company was named in Google's 2009 Annual Report - filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on February 12 2010 - alongside the likes of Monster, eBay and Amazon.
This is the first time that Google has named vertical search companies as competitors, normally only reserving such flattery for software and search companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo.
The Annual Report says:
"Our business is characterized by rapid change and converging, as well as new and disruptive, technologies. We face formidable competition in every aspect of our business, particularly from companies that seek to connect people with information on the web and provide them with relevant advertising."
It then goes on to list:
- Traditional search engines, such as Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corporation’s Bing.
- Vertical search engines and e-commerce sites, such as WebMD (for health queries), Kayak (travel queries), Monster.com (job queries), and Amazon.com and eBay (commerce). We compete with these sites because they, like us, are trying to attract users to their websites to search for product or service information, and some users will navigate directly to those sites rather than go through Google.
- Social networks, such as Facebook, Yelp, or Twitter.
Further on in the report, Google says competition will have a long-lasting effect.
"We believe our revenue growth rate will generally decline as a result of a number of factors including increasing competition, the inevitable decline in growth rates as our revenues increase to higher levels, and the increasing maturity of the online advertising market."
When asked about being cited as a competitor, Kayak chief marketing officer Robert Birge says the company has a "great relationship" with Google as an advertising medium, but adds humbly:
"I'm a bit surprised that we would be called out given our size (I'm pretty sure that Google has a bigger janitorial staff in their NY offices than our 97 employees) and given that using the much larger OTAs are also a substitute behavior for using a search engine."
Tnooz posted the following question on Twitter:
"Imagine you were cited as a competitor by Google. Would you be a) flattered b) terrified c) start prepping those sale documents?"
One public response from Sunshine.co.uk boss Chris Clarkson and a handful via DM said simply: all of the above.