After FTC win, can Google keep up search success?

U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz speaks during a news conference regarding the agency’s 21-month-long investigation on Google January 3, 2013 at the FTC headquarters in Washington, DC.

It was a good day for Google Thursday as the Federal Trade Commission said the search engine giant is not being anticompetitive when it promotes its own services in search results. We won’t be seeing a repeat of the Microsoft antitrust case of the 1990s.

With this win behind it, what’s Google afraid of next? Its search engine market share is approaching 70 percent in the U.S. Still, it keeps trying to expand into other businesses, and yet:

“Everything other than search that they have tried has essentially failed,” says James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research.

And, that is a risk for Google. McQuivey says the company could find itself shut out of the next big thing. Its social network Google Plus hasn’t taken off and its foray into TV has been a bust.

And, even though Google rules search today, it’s not that hard for users to switch.

“So, you think to yourself, wow, I love Google, then you think to yourself, if I try another search engine, does that really affect my life too much?” says Whit Andrews, an analyst at technology research firm Gartner.

It’s much easier to change search engines than to switch computer operating system or social networks.

That’s where new competition comes in. If products like Apple’s voice-search service called Siri catch on, Google could find its dominance waning.

“The potential for something like Siri is tremendous if people perceive it to be something better than Google,” Andrews says.

And, even though the FTC has mostly given Google the all-clear, that doesn’t mean its out of the legal woods yet. Europe’s regulators are still keeping their watch on Google’s business practices.

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