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Some “what ifs” around the new Microhoo

Sure, there are a million opinions about the announcement this week of the Microsoft and Yahoo! becoming joined at the hip (in a very businesslike way). Fortunately, it is a big Internet and there is always room for one more. I have been looking at this entire proceeding now for several months and just at the start of this week had become so tired of the chatter around who did or didn’t do what that I whined about it. Yup, I whined. I got fed up with all the speculation, rumors and outright fables being spread around that I threw up my hands and asked, “Who cares?”


Image by JVManna via Flickr

Well, now that the union has been announced with signings using oversize pens the time for real “What ifs?” can start in full, so I will offer up a few of mine right now.
What if these two corporate monoliths sign all the necessary paperwork and do all the glad-handing in front of the cameras, and then the two companies just can’t get along? Sharing search engines (Bing will be the search engine for both entities although Yahoo will retain its current look and feel…supposedly) and sharing a sales effort sounds great on paper, but in practice? While I hold out hope that these two can do something to pull this off as smoothly as possible, I have also been around enough to know that the train has left the station, and the potential wreck that lies ahead could be of spectacular proportions.
What if Yahoo! has truly turned itself into AOL v2? Larry Dignan over at ZDNet goes over this possibility in great detail and with great insight. Remember when AOL had it’s own search function then it handed over the reigns to Google? Does anyone really recognize AOL as an online leader anywhere and for any reason at this point in history? As for Google, well, they have done OK, despite losing their shirts on their investment in AOL, which was just bought back by Time Warner this week at bargain basement prices. In fact, an AOL SEC filing spells out some interesting details.

In 2008, search advertising revenues comprised approximately one-third of our total advertising revenues and was the only category of our advertising revenues that grew year-over-year. Changes that Google has made and may unilaterally make in the future to its search service or advertising network, including changes in pricing, algorithms or advertising relationships, could adversely affect our advertising revenues.

Yahoo! can still sell the search but they can’t control the search. Eerily similar to the AOL / Google relationship isn’t it?
What if Steve Ballmer and Carol Bartz were put into a cage and allowed to go after each other MMA (mixed martial arts) style? So, that’s a little over the top, but after the initial Ballmer psychotic outburst and chair-throwing tactic, my money is on Bartz. I think she would clean his clock.
What if one of the most important SEO tool features just went away? For you SEOs, it’s time to start looking for a replacement for the ‘link colon operator’ ( that has been a mainstay of examining Web site back links since both Google AND Microsoft scrapped their offerings years ago. Oh, and all those other need search tools? Well, all bets are off for now. For me, it was actually the only time I used Yahoo! for anything other than e-mail and the occasional news piece. If they take that away then there will be some SEOs that are SOL.
What if this thing really worked as designed? Imagine a day in the somewhat distant future where Google actually has a competent competitor and the market is driven by the competitive forces. Could that lead to, dare I say, real innovation? Wouldn’t that be cool?
So, to sum it up, I am actually rooting for this thing to work. Why? I want to see someone push Google a bit. Honestly, I depend on Google for far too much but they are the best at what they do and it happens in one place. Convenience and performance are key for anyone. Hopefully, the new union between Microsoft and Yahoo! turns into a winner, and not the kind of unholy union of our worst fears.

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