In what is most likely not a joke – despite the suspicious timing – Google has said that it will be discontinuing its enterprise-focused Site Search offering as of April 1, 2017. The announcement first appeared as a notification on the main page for the service. While services purchased before the allotted date will continue to be active until their terms expire, new license purchases will no longer be possible after April 1. No immediate replacement is expected or announced for the paid program and users are being asked to move to the company's free, but ad-supported, Custom Search Engine (CSE).
There are quite a few differences between CSE and Site Search, though both provide a relatively simple way for web developers and publishers to add a customized search across their own websites. In terms of search functionality, Site Search allows for image-only searches but does not allow for searches across the entire internet. CSE also lacks some of the core features that Google classifies as "look-and-feel." For example, Site Search has options to remove ads, can access the XML API for results, offers unlimited use of JSON API, and has the option to remove Google branding from the search UI itself. Both CSE and Site Search allow for money to be made using Google's AdSense but CSE only has limited access to the JSON API. Site Search also includes the ability to transfer ownership and to share search query quotas within a business group, where CSE does not have those options. Both have access to support forums, but CSE does not have any sort of direct email support tied to it. Site Search is a license subscription, with pricing based on how much the tool is expected to be used. By way of example, $100 per year covered 20,000 search queries. Price tiers stepped up from there depending on business needs, with the highest listed price set at $2,000 per year. Licensing to allow more than 3 million queries requires contact with Google to work out the cost. As mentioned above, CSE is ad-supported and is otherwise free for the time being.
Where Google goes from here is anybody's guess. One unnamed Site Search customer told Fortune (who first reported on this) that there is a suspicion the company is ending Site Search as a way to continue its push to disconnect its ad-based offerings from its "enterprise technology which is G Suite based." Considering Google's continuous recent efforts surrounding G Suite – which is getting better all the time – the idea does make some sense. In addition to being a direct competitor to Microsoft's Office software, the company is always looking for and implementing new ways to create a software solutions environment that serves a wide variety of enterprise needs. However, Google is also recommending that users switch to its ad-based alternative, which may be a point directly against the commenting customer's assertion. In the meantime, whether or not anything is actually planned for G Suite as a direct replacement for Site Search remains a mystery.