Guardian column: Micohoo vs. Gulliver

My Guardian column this week on the Microhoo search lashup:

In bringing together their search traffic, Microsoft and Yahoo are fighting an unwinnable war. Worse, they are still fighting the last war. . . .

But while they pound their little fists on Google’s shins, Google remains the unchallenged giant in the arena that really matters: advertising revenue. According to the blog Search Engine Land, Google takes almost a third of all online advertising money – $21bn a year – and it doesn’t rely just on search.

And Google is turning to the next battlefields: mobile, social media, the live web, and online tools. . . .

Yahoo can now jettison the technology resources that went into search. That’s rather sad. After all, 15 years ago, it was Yahoo that first organised the web for us. Its original ambition seems quaintly naive today: human editors cataloguing every site worth visiting and deciding which were the hot ones we should visit. Back then, we, and Yahoo, thought the web was a medium, like TV, that we experienced together. Yahoo never quite broke out of that thinking. It still treats its site as a destination we have to go to with walls around it to keep us in. It just introduced a new homepage to some fanfare. Homepages are so 1999. . . .

So, let Yahoo and Microsoft celebrate their deal. Yahoo doesn’t have as much to celebrate. It turned down acquisition offers and now it gets no cash from Microsoft. And it is surrendering its earliest competence to a competitor. Microsoft has more cause to grin. It got Yahoo’s search traffic for no cash and doesn’t have to manage the rest of the old beast.

And Google? One wonders whether it notices beyond that irritating poking at its shins. It’s too busy trying to conquer what comes next.

  • This battle of the giants should be good.

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  • Tom Wolper

    I disagree with your tone of Google triumphalism. First, while homepages are so 1999, so are a good percentage of internet users. When I have a chance to talk with peers at social occasions about their internet use, the number of people who started on AOL and are still using them amazes me. The number of people I talked into signing up for Facebook who tell me they never check their pages surprises me (and we are talking about a 40+ crowd here). The truth is that there is a large percentage of internet users who are satisfied if something just works and are not out there looking for the cutting edge. If they had a Yahoo homepage in 1999, then they still have one, and they are prepared to do their search and shopping through it like they have always done.

    Yahoo knows they are not going to compete head-to-head with Google. This deal with Microsoft gets rid of that anchor around their neck and gives them some chance to pick the next big wave and ride it. One thing we know about the internet is that innovations cannot be predicted and the next big thing seems to come out of left field. To a larger extent, I think Microsoft and Yahoo are putting the last war behind them and are giving themselves a chance to compete in the next one.

    • Jeesh. It was a joke. I didn’t mean to offend the Homepage Appreciation Society! (That’s a joke, too…).

      I think Yahoo is just a huge looser in this. It could have been bought for billions. Instead, it gave up its core and it’s not clear what it is now except, as I say in my (triumphalist) book, the last of the old media companies.

      • Tom Wolper

        “Jeesh. It was a joke. I didn’t mean to offend the Homepage Appreciation Society! (That’s a joke, too…). ”

        The point is not to misread the market. If a Yahoo homepage has value, then Yahoo should be off figuring out its value and making money on it.

  • Stan Hogan

    But didn’t Google try to head this deal off with its own takeover of Yahoo!, only to have the feds read them the antitrust riot act? Sounds like Google considers the Microsoft-Yahoo! deal more than an ankle poker.

  • Eric Gauvin

    “Homepages are so 1999”

    What could you mean by that?

    I understand that you mean to belittle their redesign, but that’s a fairly important statement. Is there more to it than that?

    What has replaced home pages?

  • Google and fire ants, no stopping them.

    Seeing a lot of Bing referrals to my site, tho. Just a passing thing?

  • Eric Gauvin

    totally off topic, but how come you haven’t mentioned your new podcase, “This Week In Google” yet?

    • I was waiting for the audio version to be up and also for my Guardian podcast to be up; just blogged both. Thanks for asking.

  • David Fee

    Two questions:

    What about those that are behind the information curve, the people that are unfamiliar with the new forms of connection and default to the comfort of the known – Homepages?

    How do those of us that have not kept current with the quickly evolving world of the internet catch up to the pack?

    • Keeping up with the web means keeping up with things that get ever-simpler and thus more inclusive, not less.

  • “Homepages are so 1999?

    What could you mean by that?