Apple needs to build its own search engine

Iphone Safari Start Page Hero
(Image credit: Future)

Apple doesn't really have any option but to build its own search engine right now.

Last week, a report by the Information noted that a number of Apple engineers working on Siri and Spotlight had left the company to head to Google. According to the report, the team that those engineers worked on was, in addition to the work on Siri and Spotlight, "quietly developing search capabilities that might compete head-on with Google’s." 

Apple has been rumored to be working on its own search engine for years. Google currently pays the company an estimated $15 billion per year to currently be set as the default search engine in Safari on the iPhone.

However, Apple has continued to expand what Siri and Spotlight can do across the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. One of the biggest changes the company has made that could indicate a bigger move into search is that the iPhone now features a "Search" button (i.e. Spotlight) above the dock on the Home Screen. Tapping the button will launch you into Spotlight search.

Apple needs to build its own search engine

Let's face it. Despite other search engines existing, Google remains far and away the search engine that basically runs the entire internet. Search (or advertising on search) has also made Google a vast amount of the money that the company uses to fund all of its other interests.

Search is an enormous business opportunity for Apple. More accurately, advertising on search is a huge business opportunity for Apple. The plan, in the end, would be very simple:

  1. Make Apple's search product the default search engine on all Apple products
  2. Run ads on those search results

What Apple needs to do with its own search engine to differentiate itself from Google, and attempt to steal away all of us Googlers, is to make the search engine more focused on your privacy.

This is an area that the company has already focused heavily on for the last few years. In addition to running all of the Privacy on iPhone ads, the company actually walks the walk when it comes to user privacy. With almost every software feature the company has announced over the last few years, it has touched on how privacy is involved.

While Google's search engine is still the most popular, almost everyone understands that we sacrifice privacy when using it. Google, despite providing more privacy options for consumers to enable, collects a ton of user information by default. This is an area of differentiation that Apple can take advantage of. Much like the company's opt-in approach for app tracking, it could do the same for search.

I know that I would certainly feel better about my data (or lack of data) in the hands of Apple's own search product rather than Google's.

Shouldn't Apple just buy DuckDuckGo?

The one existing option that Apple could theoretically buy is DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo, while not the biggest search engine, continues to slowly grow in popularity as the search engine is, like Apple might do itself, built with privacy in mind.

However, there would be a big hurdle that might prevent the company from acquiring DuckDuckGo, and that hurdle might have more to do with the search engine's mission rather than money.

If Apple bought DuckDuckGo, would it cease to work on Android and Windows? If Apple launches its own search engine, Android and Windows users would still have a more privacy-focused option. If Apple buys DuckDuckGo, would that option go away? Seeing DuckDuckGo's focus on building a privacy-focused for all platforms could be a snag for Apple if it wanted to make the search engine exclusive to its own products.

When could we get an Apple search engine?

The report from The Information says that Apple could launch its own search engine in the next three to four years. In the meantime, I'll continue to use DuckDuckGo. It's a fantastic option that protects my privacy online.

If Apple launches its own...that'll be the comparison that all of us privacy-focused searchers will have to make. 

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.