Yahoo Takes Major Search Partner Away From Google

Chris CrumSearch

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Yahoo may have lost its way in search over the years, but it would appear that CEO Marissa Mayer is determined to bring search back to the forefront. Going to head with her former employer in its specialty may not be an easy feat, but she's doing everything she can, it would seem, to cement Yahoo's brand back into search relevance. Keep in mind, Yahoo was the king of search at one point, and a lot of people are frustrated with Google for various reasons (look no further than the comment sections on our Google search articles for proof of that).

Can Yahoo make a significant comeback in search? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Yahoo and Mozilla announced a strategic five-year partnership making Yahoo Search the default search engine for Firefox in the United States both on mobile and desktop.

"This is the most significant long-term partnership for Yahoo in five years," a spokesperson for the company tells WebProNews. "As part of this, Yahoo will introduce an enhanced search experience, which U.S. Firefox users will receive first in December 2014."

This is huge news for both parties as well as for search in general. Google has been the global default search experience in Firefox for the past ten years. While Chrome has emerged in the meantime, Firefox remains a popular browser, and should give Yahoo a significant boost in searches.

Here's what the desktop web browser market share looked like last month (via Wikipedia):

The Mozilla Google deal came up for renewal this year, and Mozilla decided to review its competitive strategy and explore its options.

"In evaluating our search partnerships, our primary consideration was to ensure our strategy aligned with our values of choice and independence, and positions us to innovate and advance our mission in ways that best serve our users and the Web," said CEO Chris Beard. "In the end, each of the partnership options available to us had strong, improved economic terms reflecting the significant value that Firefox brings to the ecosystem. But one strategy stood out from the rest."

Firefox will on longer have a single global default search provider. Mozilla says it's adopting a "more local and flexible" approach with different partnerships for different countries. While Yahoo is the U.S. partner, it's Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China. In all, Firefox will have 61 different search providers pre-installed across 88 different language versions. Google will still be among those options, and it will continue to power Safe Browsing and Geolocation features in Firefox. Google will also remain the default in Europe.

That could change, however, and given that Mozilla and Yahoo are now buddies, you have to wonder if Yahoo will eventually take the reins there too.

Mayer said, “We’re thrilled to partner with Mozilla. Mozilla is an inspirational industry leader who puts users first and focuses on building forward-leaning, compelling experiences. We’re so proud that they’ve chosen us as their long-term partner in search, and I can’t wait to see what innovations we build together. Yahoo, we believe deeply in search – it’s an area of investment, opportunity and growth for us. This partnership helps to expand our reach in search and also gives us an opportunity to work closely with Mozilla to find ways to innovate more broadly in search, communications, and digital content.”

"Our teams worked closely with Mozilla to build a clean, modern, and immersive search experience that will launch first to Firefox’s U.S. users in December and then to all Yahoo users in early 2015. The interactive and integrated experience also better leverages our world-class content and personalization technologies," she said. "Search inspires us because we think it’s something that will change and improve dramatically, and because fundamentally, search is about human curiosity — and that is something that will never be finished."

"Search is a core part of the online experience for everyone, with Firefox users alone searching the Web more than 100 billion times per year globally,” said Beard. “Our new search strategy doubles down on our commitment to make Firefox a browser for everyone, with more choice and opportunity for innovation. We are excited to partner with Yahoo to bring a new, re-imagined Yahoo search experience to Firefox users in the U.S. featuring the best of the Web, and to explore new innovative search and content experiences together.”

In recent years, Yahoo has become known more for its display advertising business than its search business, but in its most recent earnings report, it actually revealed that it's doing better in search. The company saw its eleventh quarter of year-over-year search revenue growth with price-per-click up in most regions.

"We continue to find ways to enhance the performance of our search ads through better user interfaces and higher quality traffic and as advertisers ultimately find our search ads more valuable," Mayer said at the time.

She also talked a little about search on the conference call that followed the earnings release. She said, “When we think about what will search look like, on a phone, on a smaller device 10 years from now, we think it looks pretty different then it looks today. We really like the Aviate technology that we acquired we’ve been looking at how can really enrich the experience such that its not a lot of different answers perfectly ranked but actually the one answer you need when you’re on the go, or you’re working in a more constrained display, real constrained screening environment.”

More on the Aviate acquisition here.

As you probably know, Yahoo made a deal with Microsoft in the pre-Mayer years, which saw Bing powering Yahoo search, but it's become increasingly clear that Mayer isn't a big fan of the deal, and it will likely end eventually. Having a partnership with Mozilla will help it better compete with both Google and Microsoft, which of course uses Bing for its Internet Explorer browser.

Interestingly enough, it sounds like Bing doesn't think it will really ever be able to take significant market share away from Google when it comes to core search.

For what it's worth, the Yahoo/Bing partnership saw its biggest paid search market share increase in five years in Q3.

As far as Firefox goes, Mozilla is doing plenty to keep its flagship product relevant, which will only help Yahoo in the United States. It recently announced some major privacy-related initiatives, and that's something that's been on a lot of people's minds, particularly since the whole NSA/PRISM scandal came to light. By the way, under the partnership, Mozilla says Yahoo will support Do Not Track in Firefox.

Mozilla is also courting developers with a new Developer Edition of Firefox.

As of this summer, Mozilla is under new leadership as Beard became CEO, though he's been "deeply involved with every aspect of Mozilla" since 2004.

Google's dominance has been helped by partnerships like the ones it has held with Google and Apple over the years, but those are starting to break down. Apple has also been distancing itself from Google reliance in a variety of ways over the past couple years.

Google is too big at this point to face any major threat, but losing such significant partnerships has to hurt it to some extent. And if you'll recall, when Google released its latest earnings report, one of the storylines was whether or not Google's core business is actually in trouble. Some analysts seem to think it might be as growth has slowed. Google has also seen twelve straight quarters of ad price decline.

In case you haven't noticed, Yahoo has been making a lot of acquisitions over the past couple years, and has been launching major overhauls to its core products while getting rid of others so it can focus on the ones that really matter. It's hard to argue that Mayer hasn't breathed new life into the company since she took over.

Yahoo doesn't have to become top dog in search again to have a major impact on the web and businesses. Either way, for the first time in a long time, it would seem that Yahoo has plenty to be excited about when it comes to search.

Do you use Firefox? Yahoo Search? Do you you think Yahoo is headed in the right direction? Discuss.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.