There's no shortage of articles hyping the Google IPO and today the Washington Post contributes to the buzz machine with Google Fans Fill Web With Buzz Over IPO. Skimming through it, I came across a passage (on page 3) that struck me, though I've probably read the same sentiments a hundred times over the years. Regarding Google's competition, the Post writes,
Yahoo is counting on its roster of registered users and its portal status to give it the upper hand…Microsoft, having seen the rich margins available in search, has also decided to make a play there…In comparison with Microsoft and Yahoo, many analysts say, Google is at an inherent disadvantage because it has no locked-in users: It doesn't require people to pay or register for its services.
Shouldn't the goal be to have services people use, not because they're forced to, but because they want to? Though Google hasn't locked me in according to "analysts," I depend on them wholly for all kinds of things I do daily online, from spell-checking to news reading to basic old-fashioned searching, because they meet my needs. I have no interest in switching to some new improved Yahoo or Microsoft search unless Google fails me.
It seems to me that Google's on the right track, and the analysts are full of bunk. Focus on pleasing the users, give them what they want, and they'll stick with you. You don't need to trap them with registrations, you need to make it easy and pleasant for them to do what they want to do and then let them get on with their lives. It will only be when Google stops giving me what I want that I'd consider changing search engines. Happy users are loyal users, and that's all the lock-in you need.