In January 2012, a small UK-based startup launched an app called Evi. Users could ask the AI-powered helper their questions and get a specific answer back. These answers, called one-shot answers in the search engine business, were completely unfashionable for the last few decades when lists of links to best possible webpages dominated the user’s screens and mobile devices. However, in an industry that is changing more rapidly than any other, even monopolists like Google must be aware that they are just one invention away from a completely leveled playing field.
Evi, which was sold only 2 years after her launch, was exactly one of these inventions. Amazon bought the technology and made it the backbone of its Alexa voice assistant, providing millions of households with one-shot facts to most of their answers. However, we are just beginning to see the disruptive effects of Evi’s capability to provide an exact answer for what users are looking for. As analysts estimate that by 2020, about half of all internet searches will be spoken word, and one answer will be provided most of the time, SEO will become even more important to company’s and going forward “the goal is to summit Everest – to get the top result – or die trying” (Vlahos, 2019). It will be interesting to see how the system of the Search Engine Business, which is a fundamental part of the internets financial ecosystem, will adapt to the new era of voice computing. How will publishers deal with an even higher dependence on big companies, as even less direct traffic will be directed to their pages? How will companies like Amazon deal with the responsibility that comes with providing information from 3rd party websites as facts through their systems? There is no single answer to that, not even for Evi.