After more false starts than I really care to recall, Microsoft and Yahoo today announced that they had reached an agreement to combine their Web search businesses to better compete with Google. The gist of the deal is that Yahoo is giving up on Web search and hiring Microsoft to handle it for them:
Not called out explicitly is what will happen to the Yahoo Publishers Network and Microsoft PubCenter which are rivals to Google’s AdSense in serving contextual ads to 3rd party publisher Web sites. Presumably, YPN is toast and the fledgling Microsoft PubCenter will assume their publisher relationships.
So where’s the pony? For Yahoo it is pretty clear – they dump the expense of running and monetizing a search engine while Microsoft pays them 88% of search revenue generated on Yahoo’s owned and operated (O&O) sites during the first 5 years of the agreement. (Also "Microsoft will guarantee Yahoo!’s O&O revenue per search (RPS) in each country for the first 18 months following initial implementation in that country.") Yahoo used Google for search from 2000-2004 before they tried to do it themselves – now they have shuttered the in-house effort as a failed project and gone back to a "content site" strategy.
For Microsoft. however, the pony is all in the future. They have irretrievably made Steve Ballmer’s "big bet" on search and purchased a whopping chunk of search market share – approximately 28% compared with Bing’s current 8%. Now they will have to deliver on it. The press release does not explicitly state the conditions under which either partner can ditch this deal, but the chances of it in the next few years have to be exceedingly slim.
Finally, the partners apparently suspect a length regulatory review and the agreement is not hoped to close until early 2010.