He went on to claim that the launch of GFS (arriving, finally¬†in September 2011, after the Department of Justice gave Google the thumbs-up to buy ITA Software for $700 million¬†earlier that year) was not having “any impact” on Kayak, the market leader in the US.
It was difficult for Hafner to not be smug given that Kayak was one of the founding members of the anti-Google lobbying group FairSearch, launched in aftermath of the initial announcement that ITA Software (which supplies flight shopping technology to Kayak and others) would be joining the Mountain View-based search giant.
But, perhaps more than just basking in the glory of (also finally) getting the Kayak IPO behind it, Hafner is clearly speaking from a position of massive dominance.
Data obtained from Experian Hitwise illustrates that GFS is still languishing behind not only Kayak but a string of other flight search providers in the US.
Six months following its launch, GFS stood in seventh position in the list of leading metasearch sites in the country, with a 1% share.¬†Kayak, the leader of the pack, had just over a majority with 52.6% market share.
Fast forward another six months to September this year, as GFS celebrated one year in the marketplace, things have improved but only marginally so.
|Rank||Website||Domain||Percentage of Visits Sept 2012||Percentage of Visits - January 2012|
A nominal gain of 0.40% to its market share (or, as marketers might say, almost doubling of its previous tally) still puts GFS in seventh spot, but clearly Kayak has no suffered as a result.
In fact, Kayak has soared over the same period to the extent that it now almost commands a massive two-thirds of the category.
So who has suffered as a result of Kayak’s surge in its¬†share of traffic?¬†The most obvious victim is Bing, slumping by 13% over the eight months between the two sets of data.
Now there are those that dispute the figures – and have done so previously and privately – because they do not take into account mobile searches.
But given that Kayak has a strong presence also on devices (apps and mobile web), perhaps those remaining nine amongst the ten might actually be even worse off.
There are still lots of question marks around Google’s strategy around taking GFS to a global scale (lest we forget,¬†vice president for travel at ITA Software by Google, Jeremy Wertheimer, claimed in November last year that an international roll-out of GFS was “coming soon”).
But the same could be said for Kayak, which has yet to set the world on fire outside of the US despite TV campaigns and struggles, in the UK for example, against the likes of Skyscanner, Cheapflights¬†and Travelsupermarket.
The lesson, if any, is that first-mover advantage in flight search is as massive a consideration (perhaps even more than) as brand and marketing.