Yes, of course it is. What Google does, matters. However, we seem to be missing the long-term picture. Google is mainly great at keyword based search.
But will keyword based search be the dominant search form in 20 years? Ten years? Five years even? Doubt it.
Mobile search is much more about location. Ecommerce search will be much more about your social connections and their experience with the same product.
If I am still typing in keywords in five years time I consider that as bad as travel agents still typing in cryptic command line messages for flight/hotel bookings. (And, yes, I understand the efficiency argument about an expert using a concise well matured language).
What is the alternative to keyword search? Well one step forward is destination/travel date based search. Not exactly a UI panacea but probably more useful than a keyword based research query in terms of pitching back destination inspiration ideas or available travel product.
Yet, Google is not winning that game. In fact it is not even playing in it. The game has changed and it is Bing with its Farecast acquisition just 16 months ago which is playing the game of converting mainstream searches from keyword based search to destination/date based.
Is that 16 month head start sufficient? Will Bing have built sufficient knowledge to be able to fend off any Google-ITA mainstream solution?
It’s a big question. I don’t have the answer. What I am sure though is that Google have a fight on their hands and they are not first to market. In that situation regulators are bound to give them the green light.
If Google ultimately lose the battle (such as it has with book ecommerce moving to consumers searching on Amazon first) then I believe they will regret the five year period between 2005 and 2010 where it basically squandered a lead.
Can you name a single big innovation in travel search that Google has delivered to market in the last five years? Nope.
Oddly, Expedia is making noises about the Google-ITA Software deal expressing concerns to the US Justice Department.
But Expedia is actually in the same boat as Google. Expedia has also squandered a leading travel search position. Compare for example this 2003 hotel search result to a 2010 version.