Well, here's another juicy layer to add to the speculation about whether or not Yahoo and Microsoft will soon end their search alliance. Yahoo has reportedly been building its own mobile search engine that it's currently testing, and that experience removes the "Powered by Bing" stamp that has been attached to Yahoo's search results since the alliance took effect.
Should Yahoo drop Bing? Tell us what you think.
Buisness Insider's Nicholas Carlson, who had a book about Marissa Mayer and her "fight to save Yahoo," published earlier this year, got his hands on the test experience, and found that the results don't say powered by Bing. He reports:
A couple weeks ago, a person who claims to have been working in Yahoo's search division until recently told us that, under Mayer, Yahoo built its own mobile search engine. This source that Yahoo was testing it with 15% of its mobile users. We've been unable to corroborate all of those details, but — thanks to instructions from that source — we were able to able to load the new version of Yahoo's mobile search engine.
While he does acknowledge that none of this proves Yahoo is going to break up with Microsoft and launch its own search engine, and that the results from the test seem to match Bing's results, he asks why the search results pages have done away with the Bing branding.
It's a good question, made all the more interesting by other recent reports. The question of whether or not the two companies will continue their partnership already remains up in the air. They have a decision to reach this month after extending a deadline to reach an agreement by 60 days after February 23. There has already been plenty of speculation since that round of the news cycle, when Reuters reported:
It was not immediately clear if the extension signaled progress or lack of consensus between Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The announcement to extend the talks comes a few days after Nadella’s mother passed away in Hyderabad, India, according to a report in The Economic Times.
Microsoft has had nothing to say about any of this.
Yahoo said over a week ago, "We value our partnership with Microsoft and continue discussions about plans for the future. We have nothing further to announce at this time.”
Carlson's report has a fresher statement from Yahoo, which says, "Search is an important part of Yahoo's business and we're always experimenting and looking to improve the experience for our users. We have nothing to announce at this time."
Let further speculation commence.
You have to note that the search alliance was formed when both companies were being run by different people, and that Mayer has reportedly blasted the deal both in public around the office.
Last year, Kara Swisher (a frequent reporter of Yahoo goings on) reported that Mayer was making a "big push to return the company to the search business". The report said she was trying to “move Yahoo squarely into competition with both Google and Microsoft in an attempt to regain control over one of its key revenue streams.”
“To do so, she has ordered up two under-the-radar initiatives that could potentially move the company into algorithmic search, as well as search advertising, again,” Swisher wrote.
There's been talk in the media about Google and Yahoo potentially partnering as well. The two have partnered on contextual ads, and Google executive chairman has reportedly said in the past that the company would "love to be a search partner for Yahoo".
Google and Yahoo did try to partner before Yahoo and Microsoft partnered, but it never happened due to the threat of regulatory action. Google has since settled an FTC antitrust investigation.
Carlson takes the angle that Mayer is wanting to go to war with Google, which would also make sense given their battle for Firefox users. In November, Yahoo and Mozilla entered a partnership that made Yahoo the default search experience on Firefox, replacing Google, which had held the spot for the past decade. The deal showed some great early results for Yahoo in terms of search market share.
In March, StatCounter released data indicating Yahoo was largely able to hang on to the initial gains it made in the search market, but that growth has pretty much come to a stop. The numbers for February were as follows: Google 74.9%, Bing 2.5%, and Yahoo 10.7%. That’s U.S. search share. Yahoo’s slowed growth hasn’t kept Google from more aggressively trying to get Firefox users to switch back to its search experience. It's even been showing large ad-like messages to users on unrelated search results pages, begging them to switch to Google.
It also sounds like all three will be competing for a similar spot in Apple's Safari browser, as Google's deal with Apple nears its expiration. On an earnings call, Mayer showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the prospect of Yahoo getting that.
Would you like to see Yahoo go off on its own? Let us know in the comments.