In a move that can be huge for the number three search engine in the U.S., Yahoo and Mozilla have announced a five-year strategic partnership that will see Yahoo replace Google as the front page search engine on the popular Firefox browser. At a time when search engine market shares have held steady, this move has the potential to let Yahoo (and in some respects Bing) take a bite out of Google’s market share.
The change will happen in December, when Firefox users will be introduced to a “new enhanced Yahoo Search experience that features a clean, modern interface that brings the best of the Web front and center”.
The partnership is certainly news for Mozilla, but Yahoo stands to benefit more from the deal. Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer lauded the deal in a post on her blog.
“Today, I’m thrilled to announce that we’ve entered into a five-year partnership with Mozilla to make Yahoo the default search experience on Firefox across mobile and desktop. Mozilla is an inspirational industry leader who puts users first and focuses on building forward-leaning, compelling experiences. This is the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years and we’re so proud that Mozilla has chosen us as their long-term partner in search.”
Ease of use is a big thing for consumers, so if Yahoo is the starting search engine for a browser, many users will stick with it. According to the most recent data from statCounter, Firefox browsers are used by a little more than 15 percent of the US internet population. And according to data provided by the company, Firefox users alone search the internet more than 100 billion times per year.
Google is the clear loser in the deal. Google has partnered with Mozilla since 2004, but that agreement ended this year. Firefox has always made it easy to switch out default search providers, and will continue to do so, but for integration, they have chosen Yahoo. In Mozilla’s statement announcing the Firefox/Yahoo collaboration, they didn’t show any overt signs of conflict with Google.
“In evaluating our search partnerships, our primary consideration was to ensure our strategy aligned with our values of choice and independence, and positions us to innovate and advance our mission in ways that best serve our users and the Web,” stated Chris Beard on the Mozilla blog. “In the end, each of the partnership options available to us had strong, improved economic terms reflecting the significant value that Firefox brings to the ecosystem. But one strategy stood out from the rest.”
From this vague answer, there is one specific change that may explain why Firefox and Google have decided to end their partnership for search integration. Firefox has been a vocal advocate of consumer protections on the web, especially since tech companies came under fire for their role in the NSA surveillance programs. Under this new partnership, Yahoo will also support Do Not Track (DNT) in Firefox. Currently, Google doesn’t support Do Not Track requests.
Becoming the browser that’s known for privacy and consumer protection can be a major selling point as consumers become more attuned to these issues. With these latest changes, Yahoo will become the browser that does the things even Google Chrome won’t. So while Yahoo gets the immediate benefit by peeling away some of Google’s search market share, the partnership has the potential to let Firefox peel away some of Google Chrome’s market share.
As we have mentioned in previous articles, though far from its prime, it’s clear that Yahoo is still a player in the game. This partnership with Firefox has the potential to shake up the search and browser market shares in the U.S. Google won’t be dethroned, but there’s a significant possibility that this time next year, Yahoo will have made some serious gains on Google. And anything that brings down Google’s market share but doesn’t directly affect Bing, means that Bing will also gain ground on Google in this scenario.
Following their windfall profit from the Alibaba IPO, this partnership is the best thing that could’ve happened to Yahoo. For more recent Yahoo news, read this article about the old Yahoo Directory, which will be shutting down at the end of the year.