Summary: The major search engines are all pushing toolbar adoption as part of a strategy to surround users with products and features they hope will maintain and increase market share. Though toolbars have been around for several years, their promotion has recently increased because they help create a direct relationship with the online consumer. Their purpose is to reinforce current patterns of use or capture new usage from rivals. In July, 11 percent of searches in the United States were performed via toolbars.
Smaller search engines, Internet Yellow Pages, vertical directories and news or product Web sites that wish to offer toolbars face an uphill battle. Development costs are low, however, and toolbars can help the strategic mission of the site or publisher. That is, provided the offered utility is real and not already available from one of the broader general purpose toolbars. Indeed, given the growing number of toolbars and competitors, there is something of a zero-sum game, as providers vie for access to the limited amount of slots at the top of the browser window.