You may have heard in the past few months about the “Firefox and Yahoo deal”, and for a good reason: it’s been shaking up the search world since it was announced in November. However, from my desk in the physical world, things seem pretty normal—the world is still turning, I still feel my daily pang of needing my 3 o clock cup of coffee. So, what exactly is this deal, and what’s been happening?
To help you out, we did a little investigating ourselves.
Yesss, show me your secrets.
While that downloads, here’s the background on this deal. Firefox and Yahoo announced in November that they were entering a “five-year partnership that makes Yahoo the default search experience for Firefox in the United States on mobile and Desktop”. This was a really big deal. Firefox was replacing Google as their default search engine with Yahoo…but why?
Well, for a couple reasons. While Firefox once was the main browser competitor to Internet Explorer, they were quickly swallowed by what is now the top browser, Google Chrome, since its release in 2008. Before this release, Google used to be Firefox’s default search engine, but since Google released their competing browser, relationships between the two have been a little less friendly. Firefox and Google haven’t actually had a partnership since 2011.
So now, Firefox decided to shake things up by introducing a different search engine—Yahoo Search—as the default search tool for their browser. This had the potential to take some of the search share power away from Google, as Firefox held about 16% of the browser market share when this deal was announced. That’s 16% of the internet using world could be switching from Google to Yahoo Search! And taketh away from Google they did.
This partnership went live in December, and quickly made big changes to the search share layout. Firefox users were now given Yahoo Search as their homepage, and had Yahoo Search set as their default search tool. Here’s what it looks like, after clicking on the “home” icon on Firefox’s interface:
Seems non-threatening enough.
So let’s say I want to search for something. I go ahead and type it into the conveniently located search tool on my homepage:
A very important search.
And lo and behold, we have Yahoo Search!
And some of the most adorable puppies I’ve ever seen.
While your first reaction might be “I wonder if my apartment complex accepts pets, particularly ones of the cute puppy variety”, your next reaction would be wondering what impact this has had on the search landscape. Since this deal went live, Yahoo has gained 2.3% of the search share, and had a January share of 10.9% (up from 8.6% in November, before the partnership). Google, on the other hand, lost 2.7% of the search share, and had a January share of 74.8% (down from 77.3% in November). According to StatCounter, this is the first time Google has had less than three quarters of the search share since they started tracking data (and FYI, that was in 1999).
Basically, this is kind of a big deal. Yahoo Search is gaining quickly in the search landscape in only two months of this partnership being live out of an expected 5 years, and it seems to be at the expense of the big G.
So, how is Google responding?
By trying to win back some of their lost users, of course. Since late January, Google has been appealing to Firefox users who manually go to Google’s site by trying to smooth-talk them back into overriding Yahoo as their default homepage and search engine. Check it out:
Why Google, so forward of you!
If you click “Sure”, Google takes you to their page outlining directions on how to set Google as your default homepage.
So, what does this mean for the world of search? While it’s too soon to make predictions that far out, we can already see that Yahoo is quickly gaining traction as a search tool, and Google is quickly declining. In fact, Google is declining more than we’ve seen before, dropping below their usual claim to three quarters of the search share, while Yahoo is reaching its highest share in the past 5 years. With Google’s search share declining, this could mean that Bing might be a wise place to invest, which is good news for businesses that have a lower CPC in Bing than Google.
So what will the next 5 years of this partnership bring? Will we be searching for ‘cute puppies’ on Google, or Yahoo? For now, we will just have to wait and see.