Digital Content

International search engine Google's new South African focus is a good sign for an online SA, says local search engine Ananzi.The new-look domain, which was launched last week, features a Google South Africa header, a choice between searching the entire Web or for South African Web content only, and four extra language options: Afrikaans, Sotho, Xhosa and Zulu.

However, local industry watchers do not expect much impact from the move, since there is only one truly local search engine – Ananzi – and most South African Web users already make use of Google. Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, doesn't see Google as a threat to Ananzi.

“Yahoo would be more of a threat to Ananzi. Google is plain vanilla, designed for going directly to a site, made up of automated content, whereas Ananzi and Yahoo are content-rich and multi-faceted portals.”

Goldstuck notes that it is difficult and expensive to operate a uniquely South African search engine, as Core Holdings learned when it represented Yahoo locally. Core Holdings collapsed in 2002 and was delisted in 2003, he says.

Ananzi MD Mark Buwalda says Google's new SA search page with local language options is nothing new.

“The domain and different languages have always been there, only now they are forcing IP addresses to the domain,” says Buwalda.

This was the logical step for Google to take and it has a “good model”, he adds.

The language conversion is limited to the Google search interface, which includes the home page, certain ‘about' pages, messages and buttons.

Buwalda does not expect this development to have any impact on the Ananzi search engine.

“Large numbers of South African searches still come to us, whereas the international searching goes to Google and Yahoo, more so to Google,” adds Buwalda. The advertising and revenue generation models are also different, so Buwalda sees no immediate threats.

Peter Stewart, MD of online marketing company Clickthinking, agrees, saying a large majority of South African searchers already used Google before it launched the domain.

“Google's crawling ability and engineering resulted in them building the largest index on the Web with their search results providing variety and relevancy. However, I would expect searchers to use both Google and Ananzi when searching for South African subject matter,” says Stewart.

“Ananzi is the only successful South African engine,” he adds.