We thought it was a done deal: Yahoo and Microsoft were cosying up together, with Bing superceding Yahoo’s own search engine. Now there’s news Yahoo may let users choose which engine runs on their pages. What’s going on?
This data has arrived via the Deutsche Bank Technology conference, coming directly from Yahoo’s own senior dirctor Burke Culligan. He told the audience that Yahoo wasn’t against the idea of letting users replace Yahoo search with Microsoft’s Bing or Google. “Right now, we’re not doing that but long-term that may not be out of the question […] We want to provide the best experience for the user and, in some way, if that was the best experience for the user we might be open to that” is how Burke hedged the issue in response to a question.
Hasn’t Culligan spoken to his own CEO, Carol Bartz, seen on stage with Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer happily describing how Yahoo search was going to be canned and replaced with Bing’s technology as part of a ten-year (that’s “long-term” for sure) search tie-up between the two companies? Yahoo’s not against the idea of replacing Yahoo search, Burke–it’s already done it.
Or has it? Has there been some major business-planning mess-up that’s kyboshed the Bing deal, perhaps concerning the legal concerns over user data sharing between the two giant companies? Or did Mr Culligan “mis-speak” and accidentally reveal that Yahoo’s considering a different approach to its search engine, one that doesn’t follow the terms of the MS deal that specifies Bing should “be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo sites”? If that’s the case, it shows considerable strong-mindedness on behalf of Yahoo’s management, especially considering that it was all-but throwing in the towel on search with the Binghoo deal. And the fact that recent statistics demonstrate that Yahoo’s search engine relevance is rapidly declining–it has just 16% of the search market, versus Google’s 65%.
When you combine this with the news that Yahoo is working on polishing its search front-end UI (protected as Yahoo property, even under the terms of the Bing deal) and wiring-in extra services that almost out-Bing Bing, then it all gets even more confusing. Obviously the search engine game is worth so much money that there’s some high-level business shenanigans going on here.
There’s even some low-level business shenanigans going on too: On the Microsoft Redmond campus the powers-that-be have deemed Bing so vital to the future of the company that they’re aggressively promoting the engine internally. Aggressive is the right word: In drinks dispensing fridges on site you can currently find Bing-branded Talking Rain fizzy drinks cans. If that’s not a sign of a company desperately chasing after revenue, I don’t know what is.