Google could power Yahoo search under new agreement

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Google may eventually power some of Yahoo's search traffic, even as Yahoo and Microsoft amended their existing search deal Wednesday.

Neither company said how long the new deal is good for, although it will continue to favor Yahoo. Microsoft said that it would continue its existing arrangement where it would pay Yahoo a percentage of the Bing ads it served.

The most important component, however, is that the deal is non-exclusive, allowing Yahoo potentially to pull in search technology from CEO Marissa Mayer's former employer, Google. "Yahoo will now have increased flexibility to enhance the search experience on any platform, since the partnership is non-exclusive for both desktop and mobile," Yahoo said in a statement.

Bing will continue to receive the lion's share of the search traffic, however, Yahoo added.

Why this matters: You get the feeling that Marissa Mayer thinks Google's search technology is superior to Microsoft's. That's not surprising, given that Mayer ran Google's product search business until 2010. The interesting question is this: If Google does land on Yahoo, which pages will it power?

An unhappy partnership

The original ten-year search deal was struck in 2009 between two chief executives who've since departed: Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, and Carol Bartz of Yahoo. Microsoft had guaranteed that Yahoo would see a certain amount of revenue if it used Bing ads. Yahoo complained that Microsoft wasn't meeting that goal, which Microsoft attributed to technical glitches, among other factors. The original deal was later extended in 2013 but limited to the United States.

Meanwhile, Yahoo has been a key factor in increasing Microsoft's search share. Bing controlled 8.9 percent of the U.S. search market in July, 2009, when the deal was struck. As of March, 2015, Bing's share had risen to 20.9 percent.

Microsoft also said it will become the exclusive sales force for ads delivered by its own Bing Ads platform, while Yahoo will continue to be the exclusive sales force for Yahoo’s Gemini ads platform. Integrating the sales teams with those responsible for engineering will allow both companies to service advertisers more effectively, the two companies said.

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