- Yahoo was the largest until recently, but Google is the biggest now.
- Yahoo Japan is independent of Yahoo US.
- Yahoo Japan is still very popular among beginner users.
- Other engines, such as Bing and Ask, are small in Japan.
- Japanese unique search engine, such as goo and Livedoor, are small.
Search engines are an integral part of the internet. They allow users to find content that they would not otherwise have access to. All search engines work in a similar manner: by taking user input and trawling the internet for matching hits. The better the algorithm behind the search engine, the better the search results it returns. A search engine that produces more accurate, relevant results is more useful to users than a search engine that returns only tangentially related results.
When many people think of search engines, they think of Google. Google is the largest, most popular search engine in the world, with more than 72% of the world's market share. The phrase "To Google something" is ubiquitous and synonymous with the action of performing an internet search.
Although Google is the largest and most popular search engine in the world, different countries do have different search engine preferences. Until it was recently eclipsed by Google, Yahoo was the preferred search engine for people in Japan. Despite no longer being number one, it is still extremely popular with Japanese users, especially beginner users.
Yahoo Japan is fully independent from Yahoo US. In the US market, Yahoo has long been falling short, losing market share and users with every passing year. In Japan, however, Yahoo is incredibly popular, with market share actually rising.
Why is this? Well, Yahoo Japan is the complete package: a search engine, source of news, email client, and more. No other Japanese website offered such a complete experience – that is, until Google came along. With Gmail and YouTube at its disposal, Google was uniquely positioned to unseat Yahoo as Japan's number one search engine.
In 2010, Yahoo Japan adopted Google’s engine. Now in Japan, when a search is done through Yahoo, it returns the result from Google, while adding its own algorithms to it. Thus, the users using Yahoo receive almost the same results that they would if they went directly through Google.
Together, Google and Yahoo Japan control 90% of the Japanese search engine market – a formidable prospect for smaller search engines to take on. While native Japanese search engines can't compete with the global dominance of Google and Yahoo, there are still a number of them available. Many were formed in the early days of the internet and have since adopted Google's search engine to power their searches, or have pivoted to focus on other services.
Established in 1997, Goo was Japan's first search engine. Today, it no longer uses its own search engine, relying instead on one powered by Google, but a handful of its services still receive popular attention. Oshiete Goo, a community-driven question-and-answer platform, has more than seven million answered questions to date.
Livedoor, another unique Japanese search engine established in the early days of the internet, lost much of its market share and saw stock prices plummet amid mid-2000s scandals. Today, it is still holding on, but is very small and rarely used.
Infoseek was similarly founded in 1998 as a search engine. It was purchased by Rakuten in 2000, and, facing falling popularity, it adopted Google Japan as its search engine in 2010 and currently features as a portal site. Infoseek offers a variety of products such as shopping, travel booking, auction services, and more.
A number of other search engines are also used in Japan, but they have a small reach compared to Yahoo Japan and Google.
MSN Japan, with its associated search engine Bing, is semi-popular as a portal site to the rest of the internet. The associated Hotmail and Outlook messaging services are popular, although Bing search is less popular than others.