Google launched a new music search feature today, providing links to song/album e-tailers, lyrics and other related material at the top of the results page.
The move is significant because it potentially creates a way for Google to become a kingmaker of sorts for the vast and expanding online music industry.
That’s because it is now a neutral player, or at least on the face of it. It has no plans to create a music library of its own, according to Marissa Mayer, Google’s director of Web products. It means Google has the luxury of pointing to all sources without bias, and users could come to recognize that Google has their own interests at stake.
But a note of caution. We’re not certain…
what sort of deals Google will cut with others going forward, and whether it will stay true to an agnostic role (see update below on this).
So for example, if you type in Coldplay, you can click on a link at the top of the results to get a list of albums and songs, and more links to ways to access them all. As you will see, there are links to certain outside vendors that show up more than others, for example iTunes and eMusic. Is it just a matter of time for Google to incorporate other e-music vendors? Will it provide such links based on pure popularity or because of some sort of arranged deal? Google also links to Rhapsody, MSN Music and others. Do you see any links to Yahoo Music?
(Update: Search Engine Watch helps answer some of these questions, and they suggest Google is indeed sticking to agnostic role: Google has no financial relationship with the sellers of music. Placement in search results is determined by a combination of the retailer’s page rank and other relevance factors, as well as an element of “randomness” to ensure “fairness,” according to Mayer.)
Om Malik notes the possibility of a kingmaker function, and compares Google’s offering with that of Silicon Valley start-up Mercora:
Google Music is not the first – Mercora has been offering music-related search for a while; but Google Music is definitely a more in-depth offering. For instance, Mercora has better way of showing information, but doesn’t have latest news links and you can buy music from MSN Music. However, if you are using a PC on the Mercora Networks, then you can listen to the music over its P2P radio network. You cannot preview music on Google Music as yet.
Btw, one reader asked why we haven’t posted anything on the rumors about Google wanting to buy Opera. It’s because it is only a rumor and is looking less likely to have any merit. Google usually doesn’t comment on deals in the pipeline, so that when actually does come out and say something — in this case, that it is just a rumor — odds are it is indeed merely a rumor.