Google’s surprising quarterly earnings miss was brushed off as just a period of slow ad sales, but the real culprit now appears to have been a 27% jump in Yahoo! Internet searches.
In November, the Mozilla Firefox browser switched from Google to Yahoo as its default search engine. This potentially disruptive change caused Google’s share of non-mobile U.S. searches to drop below 75% for the first time in about 7 years.
The Mozilla Foundation had been partnered with Google as its default search engine since 2004 and the relationship had funded about 88% of the not-for-profit’s activities. But with its 5-year contract expiring, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer either romanced or just plain bought the relationship by signing a new 5-year deal in November for Firefox to default to Yahoo Search. The corporate coup allowed Yahoo to pass Bing as #2 in search.
At the time, Chris Beard, Mozilla’s CEO, stated: “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.”
Yahoo’s Mayer added that she believes “search is 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.”
The silent party to the Firefox/Yahoo deal has been Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, who has been investing $5 billion dollars for years in “cloud computing” to gain a leg up on Amazon and Google. With Yahoo Search powered by a highly customized Microsoft Internet Explorer engine, grabbing the Firefox market share drove Google down and Microsoft’s related traffic up to 26.3%, according to StatCounter.
The Firefox deal appears to be a pre-game move by Marissa Mayer to try to convince Apple to switch to Yahoo Search from Google as its default Internet search engine when the Google/Apple five year contract comes up for renewal this year. Google pays Apple upward of a $1 billion a year in fees for the business it engenders.
Sources inside Yahoo told recode.net in April that the Yahoo’ big focus at “truly turbocharging revenue” was an aggressive effort led by CEO Mayer and SVP of Mobile and Emerging Products Adam Cahan to build a viable mobile search engine and monetization platform to convince Apple to make Yahoo the default search engine on its Safari browser on the iPhone and iPad.
Apple already has a strong relationship with Yahoo as the default data source on the iPhone for the device’s very slick stocks and weather apps. After Alibaba’s September public offering gave Yahoo billions in cash, Mayer appears willing to go to war with Google to bring search dominance back to Yahoo.