After a rollercoaster ride love/hate relationship between Microsoft and Yahoo over the past year, and various rumors and potential overtures between Yahoo and Google, the arrangement between Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing search engine is a nail in the coffin of Yahoo search. Despite the revisionist view of history claimed by Yahoo's CEO, Yahoo has been a trusted source of search results for many years. Whatever else Yahoo may morph into at this point, its days as a search provider are over.
At its peak, Yahoo was much more than a search engine. The Yahoo brand extended to an Internet media empire similar to that which Google now enjoys. Yahoo was an advertising provider. Yahoo was a news source. Yahoo was an entertainment destination. Yahoo was a Web portal. However, the various components of the Yahoo empire were built on the foundation of being a search provider.
The Yahoo brand and the Web portal concept were one of the catalysts that allowed more novice users to make the move from depending on Internet service providers (ISP) such as America Online (AOL) to put a friendly face on the Internet. Users learned that they could use any ISP and still experience many of the benefits they had come to expect from providers like AOL. The Internet is vast and complicated and scary for many average users, but putting a familiar face on it and providing a comfortable, more user-friendly experience made Yahoo a favorite destination for many.
When Yahoo ruled the world, it bought commercial space during the Superbowl and attempted to create a variety of Yahoo-branded products and services, many of which were based on raising the bar for search and differentiating it from competitors like Google. Yahoo Mindset let users tweak search results depending on whether they were trying to shop or just research information. Yahoo Search Subscriptions allowed users to include results from subscription-only proprietary search providers within their Yahoo search results.
Yahoo tried to be what Google has become. It wished it was more than a search provider, but it never achieved the level of success that Google has in branching out and becoming something greater than a search engine. Yahoo spent the last year trying to figure out how to reverse the trend of falling traffic and falling revenue and to come up with a strategy to be more than just the #2 search engine on the Internet. Microsoft's success in rebranding Windows Live Search as Bing and eating away at Yahoo's share of the pie and led it to finally surrender the search market.
Yahoo isn't the first search provider star in the Internet solar system to flame out. If you've been using the Internet for a while you might recall search providers such as Lycos, or Excite, or Alta Vista. At the peak of the Dot Com era any one of these entities had the potential to skyrocket and emerge as the champion. Yahoo survived the Dot Com bubble burst and outlasted those competitors. That is no small feat.
Contrary to the claims of its CEO, Yahoo has been an empire built on providing search results. The sun is setting on Yahoo as a search provider. Only time will tell if the sun is setting on Yahoo, or if Yahoo can successfully emerge like a phoenix from the ashes and evolve into something new within the relationship it now has as an advertising provider for Bing. Yahoo has thrown in the towel and left the search engine battle against Google in Microsoft's hands and now it has an opportunity to rebrand itself or fade away.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.