There are two separate and contrasting reports on the fate of Yahoo! post the exit of Carol Bartz. Yahoo!’s which could be regarded as the largest Web 1.0 dinosaur has possibly seen all its glory days and is simply unable to find its niche in the fast changing, quickly evolving Web 2.0-3.0 space. That is a pity considering that Yahoo! Was one of the first social companies (Yahoo! Chat anyone?). But then it lost the plot in SEO (Search Optimization) and then again in SNS (Social Networking). By the time Yahoo! Moved away from its display advertisement focused domain, the landscape had changed very nearly completely and the likes of Facebook and Google were well past it. Yahoo again had the first movers in Mobile space with some early link ups with Nokia- Yahoo on the go! but again lost the plot. Read up on the Fall of Yahoo! here
Coming back to the reports: the first one was about Yahoo! Preparing for a strategic sell-out and the fact that Yahoo! board should have sold out to Microsoft long back when Ballmer made a very generous offer. Yahoo’s long-time advisers Goldman Sachs and Allen & Co are preparing to give potential buyers financial information which is a sign that Yahoo is about to put itself on the auction block. Sale appears to be the best way forward ro get rid of the biggest millstone about the company’s neck – its board.
Yahoo has been consistently underperforming and made some howler decisions. Attempts including a very aggressive positioning effort (by Ms. Bartz) to turn the company around failed and the share price is much lower than it was when Ballmer made his bid.
In this context, the second report quotes Shashi Seth, who heads the Yahoo!’s global search and marketplaces business and the efforts around Yahoo!’s (yet again) turn around. This comes at the face of the fact that key executives at Yahoo! are leaving in hordes. Seth re-emphasizes on focus on making great products, experiences and learn how to monetize them. The key according to Mr. Seth is redefining how search has traditionally been understood and breaking the old paradigm of search to focus on new growth engines. Yahoo!’s new growth mantra focuses on
• Creating a search engine for Apps
• Focusing on Mobile search
• Ability to search through integrated user linked information across Flickr, Picassa, e-mail accounts, tweets, FB updates
With due respect to Mr. Seth, the plan sounds nice (as did every other Yahoo! turn around plan) but there are huge many gapping large holes in the scheme of things that Mr. Seth puts. Firstly, the mobility space is taken… Androids will push Google, WPs shall push Bing and Apple doesn’t care, because the whole app experience in terms of App look up and search is so well integrated in Apple that they won’t need Yahoo! to give them the solutions. That kind of rules out Points 1 and 2 listed above as the platforms will inevitably push their native search engines. The UX of Yahoo! search could also be a dampener. This applies to the two of the largest device platforms: Smartphones and Tablets.
Ability to search through integrated user linked information across user accounts is a great idea, but I suspect that the Google’s of the world are already doing it in some measure and are integrating things faster. What really enables Google and Bing is that they have a teams of developers working on their platforms using the native Google and Bing search apps. Yahoo seems to have realized the potential in mobile a little late for any real action coming through to them.
Yahoo seems to be serially missing out on another huge property that they have in terms of 12+ years of content. A content management system with optimization could bet Yahoo!’s answer … much like the Guardian example. However, I don’t think that it has the ability to turn Yahoo! around.
Microsoft’s leadership knew years ago that becoming a real competitor to Google would take patience as well as dollars.Microsoft is trying to beat Google at a different game. As against Search which is a list of options that the engine provides. Microsoft Bing is trying to help in terms of helping user making decisions faster and easier – a concierge like service which is why the monicker: Decision Engine as against a Search Engine
Bing’s consumer strategy has been around changing the game in search, they mean making search smarter. Today’s search, primarily finds topics, or noun phrases — a person’s name, a city, a product, a disease and so on.Search is still essentially a Web site finder.But the future of search is verbs — computationally discerning user intent to give them the knowledge to complete tasks. There is so little context in current search, and what Microsoft is trying to do is present users with context and structure, more a map of the world of information instead of just ranking it, especially in specific subject areas like travel and health
The phrase that Microsoft uses is “decision engine,” as opposed to search engine. New classes of information will help. Social network data, where Microsoft has an exclusive partnership with Facebook, and in May it included a feature for linking the “Like” tags of a person’s Facebook friends to that person’s search results in Bing. It is a first step, in including trusted opinions in search — and not just the popular ones that conventional search.
Location data, especially from the growing share of searches on smartphones, offers another rich stream of information. Knowledge of the user, his past behavior, his social circle and his location can add another layer of context and knowledge to the search.
The ability to write increasingly responsive, full-featured applications for the Web — using the new HTML5 programming language — should also make search more intelligent.The goal, is to connect to personal data — location, choices, lifestyle, past usage and then connect to real life connects such as bookings, reservations, linking friends, information of events and more. Thus search transcends a passive information mine into ability of “doing” more around search. The upside for Microsoft are the opportunities around monetization.
In short, the vision here is of a search engine that is part intelligent software assistant and part mind reader.
In Bing, the most visible evidence of the decision-engine concept is the ability to aggregate and present specific kinds of information in a search result. Microsoft has invested in travel services which also leverages the “doing” around travel.
Advertisers have noticed Bing’s progress. Microsoft’s share of its corporate clients’ click volume from search ads has grown to 24 percent, from 14 percent, in the last nine months or so. Bing is clearly behind Google, but now it’s a scale player as well
The progression is from data to useful information to knowledge that answers questions people have or helps them do things. Knowledge is the quest. Focussing in depth on a product category and expanding/augmenting the segment is a formula that worked in the past for Microsoft in PC software, with Windows and Office. But whether that game plan will work against Google is uncertain at best.
Is it there yet?(Afraid not)-Bing continues to be drain money for Microsoft even while results are not as desired
2 yrs back, Microsoft launched an aggressive attack on Google’s search with its Bing search engine. It also put in place, an agreement with Yahoo powering the Yahoo search at the backend. 2yrs on, Microsoft is still at it, loosing loads of monies to the tune of $700 million a quarter. The costs for Microsoft, meanwhile, keep mounting. In the latest fiscal year, ended in June, the online services division — mainly the search business — lost $2.56 billion. The unit’s revenue rose 15 percent, to $2.53 billion, but the losses still exceeded the revenue.
While there are some results in terms of 14% of search market share in US, it isn’t as encouraging as Microsoft would have wanted it to be. Add the searches that Microsoft handles for Yahoo, and Microsoft’s search technology fields 30 percent of the total. It was always going to be difficult- Google was more than a search, it was a generic- a search behavior! (Read Launch notes of Bing, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV)
Microsoft’s assault on Google in Internet search and search advertising may be the steepest competitive challenge in business today. It is certainly among the most costly. Trying to go head-to-head with Google costs Microsoft upward of $5 billion a year, industry executives and analysts estimate.
As the overwhelming search leader, Google has advantages that tend to reinforce one another. It has the most people typing in searches — billions a day — and that generates more data for Google’s algorithms to mine to improve its search results. All those users attract advertisers. And there is the huge behavioral advantage: “Google” is synonymous with search, the habitual choice. Once it starts, this cycle of prosperity snowballs — more users, more data, and more ad dollars. Economists call the phenomenon “network effects”; business executives just call it momentum.
Bing’s gains have not come at the expense of Google. Its two-thirds share of the market in the United States — Google claims an even higher share in many foreign markets — has remained unchanged in the last two years. The share losers have been Yahoo and smaller search players.
Even while Microsoft is a big, rich company, investors are growing restless at the cost of its search campaign. The inability to make effective inroads into Google’s Search stronghold is seen to be a failure in Ballmer’s strategy. While the gas tank of investments at Microsoft is an seemingly an endless pit, the lack of results (as desired) on the Bing search engine and the drain on investments is beginning to show up in terms of Investors, Analysts questioning the path, intent and approach. Challenging Google in real terms on search is a long drawn battle and it all depends on how long is Bing ready to bleed as against how quickly does Bing get measurable real results for investors to approve the spends.
Revisiting the Bing Strategy (Contd)
Google still rules the Search Kingdom by a few hundred furlongs.Latest reports from IgnitionOne, show how Google commanded 81% of all US search advertising spend in Q2 2011. This figure is actually up slightly from the previous quarter and a 17.7% increase from Q2 2010. Meanwhile, Yahoo/Bing spending dropped 7.7% from Q2 2010.Bing, increased its US search market share about 75%, from 9.7% in May 2010 to 17% in May 2011. Meanwhile, Google lost 14% of its search market share in the same timeframe. The combined Yahoo/Bing also saw YOY declines in other key metrics, with cost-per-click (CPC) down 11% and effective CPM (eCPM, or effective cost per thousand views) down 9% year-over-year. Yahoo/Bing clicks (3.6%) and impressions (1.4%) grew slightly year-over-year. However, Google’s rate of growth in these two metrics was approximately nine times greater for impressions (12.8%) and five times greater for clicks (17.6%).Google’s AdEx saw nearly 230% growth in spend year-over-year on a same client basis, despite a 20.5% decline in CPM.
Search is going social, and so Bing’s partnership and integration with Facebook – the world’s biggest social network – could potentially materialize into a big advantage over Google. Furthering the social connect, Bing has enhanced the way it takes and uses data from Facebook (such as Likes and interests) to create personalised search results.
Quoting Qi Lu, director of Microsoft Online Services: Bing and Facebook are collaborating to create a search experience that doesn’t exist at the moment. What’s missing from search is the trusted opinion of people you value.
There are still industry debates about whether Likes do add a level of trust and whether they’re all that valuable in the context of search.
1. But if social is going to play a role in search, then having access to Facebook’s data (which Google doesn’t have), gives Bing the advantage of being able to try new techniques and models for marrying the two areas.
2. Android is activating around 500K devices every day. That is 15 million Android’s in a month which means Google is going full steam at the Mobile Search. Bing is not sitting it out there and has partnerships with RIM, Nokia, Verizon to make Bing the default search engine. Bing is thus not too far behind Google, if not abreast, in providing best vertical searches on mobiles.
3. Bing’s iPad app is hailed as a more complete experience than Google’s equivalent app and really maximizing the benefits of the high resolution touchscreen device. This is significant because Apple makes Google the by-default search engine on its devices. By holding a “better experience” Bing makes itself a better alternative to Google on Apple’s devices.
4. A tighter data privacy than Google, may give Bing an advantage. The issue of data privacy is growing in importance as people wake up to the wide range of information that is available about them on the web. Google has not been able to convince users wholly about the efficacy of its data privacy policies, yet.
5. Microsoft’s Xbox is much more than a games console. For many users it acts as the gateway to the internet from their living room, making it a central part of their online experience. And Bing powers the experience from these gaming consoles.
Google has been way ahead for quite some time now – and has done so many things right, that it’s difficult to say whether Bing will ever be able to catch up. And it’s worth noting that Bing has only been able to gain some critical market share in the US so far (where Bing plus Yahoo – which is powered by Bing’s search engine – jointly have around 30%), while Google has a very dominant 90% + share in most European countries.
So part of Google’s global success is partly down to its commitment to investing in international versions of its products and quick penetration of countries outside the US. Bing will definitely need to add internationalisation to its plans if it is to get closer to its rival.
But at least the intense competition between the two is fuelling innovation and change and is great entertainment for industry watchers.
This post follows the developments around the Semantic Web space which i have been blogging about over the past few months.
In a significant development, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have teamed up to index and define an interconnected vocabulary of terms that can be added to the HTML mark-up of a Web page to communicate the meaning of concepts on the page. The initiative is called schema.org. The move represents a major advance in a campaign initiated in 2001 by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, to enable software to access the meaning of online content—a vision known as the “semantic Web.” By tagging information, Web page owners could improve the position of their site in search results—an important source of traffic. The Schema.org approach is modelled on one of the more straightforward methods of describing the meaning of a Web page’s contents. Being backed up by the biggest search engines, Schema has a very powerful Launchpad and provided that it can index right and more importantly learn from crowd intelligence and add to its vocabulary, this could be the birth of Semantic Web.
This data can be used by any software to cross-correlate things that are related, or to understand the relationship between information from different sources. Semantic information might improve artificially intelligent assistants or tools able to make good recommendations.
Independently Google is working on a Authorship mark-up options which indexes information on the web in terms of its creator. Google supports this by it +1 feature, a revised Panda search algorithm and a news algorithm.
While Schema.org still waits to have a affiliation from W3C, which the big 3 search engines have by-passed currently to unveil this semantics project and there are some code and mark-up led incompatibilities, Scheme.org definitely is a move towards integrating intelligent web services to further the consumer experience.
In the battle of Search Engines, Yahoo! seems to slowly loose its steam even as Bing is beginning to take baby steps towards the No.2 Search Engine Position. The Bing strategy seems to get to a threshold level after which it would launch a frontal attack on Google. This is as per latest data from comScore on US markets. Bing’s gains are aided by the company’s aggressive marketing and there is a question mark on Bing’s ability to sustain traction. The Microsfot agenda however looks like they would keep buying out the share gains as long as Bing doesnot get a 20%+ figure consistently for a quarter or so. Then they would slowly scale down the marketing dollars.
Bing’s efforts at more relevant search results are catching attention of users globally. The sidebar feature alows the user to cut the chase down pretty quickly. However, Bing lacks in specialist products such as the Google Scholar. It appears to be the vertical searches–such as autos and health–helping Bing, which has been its strategy to differentiate itself from the Google juggernaut.
For Yahoo, which is almost voluntarily stepping down from the No 2 position, the gamble is still very unclear. In an earlier post, i had discussed Yahoo’s new strategy which was about re-positioning Yahoo to make it more relevant to users. Yahoo was in effect trying to re-create its 2000-2005 era of success, which looks pretty tough in an age where domains are getting neatly domained (Facebook for Social networking, Twitter for Micro-blogging, WordPress, Zynga on Facebook and more). I am doubtful of sustainability of Yahoo’s efforts in absence of a very clear positioning plank. It might have got the numbers with a big budghet marketing plan, but i am not sure if they can create stickiness (a la Facebook).
Here is the quick update on the Search Market results for February:
1.According to the data, total US core search volume increased 10.4% Y/Y in February, below the 12.4% growth in January. The total growth in the first two months of 1Q decelerated to 11.4% Y/Y from 4Q’s 15.8% Y/Y growth.
2.Google domestic core search market share was 65.5% in February, up slightly from 65.4% in January. Google grew February core search volume by 14.3% Y/Y, behind 16.7% growth in January. Google domestic core search volume growth of 15.5% Y/Y in the first 2 months of 1Q is below 4Q’s 19.9% Y/Y increase.
3.Yahoo! domestic core search market share dropped to 16.8% in February from 17.0% in January. Yahoo! February core search volume was down 9.8% Y/Y vs. an 8.9% Y/Y decline in January. Yahoo!’s first 2 months of 1Q domestic core search volume’s decline of 9.3% Y/Y underperforms 4Q’s 0.5% Y/Y decline.
4.Microsoft sites domestic core search market share increased to 11.5% in February from 11.3% in January. Microsoft sites grew February core search volume by 55.4% Y/Y, up from 49.6% Y/Y growth in January. Microsoft sites’ domestic core search volume was up 52.4% Y/Y in the first two months of 1Q, ahead of 41.9% Y/Y growth in 4Q.
5.Ask Network domestic core search market share dropped slightly, to 3.7% in February from 3.8% in January. Ask grew February core search volume by 0.7% Y/Y, down from 15.5% Y/Y growth in January. Ask Network domestic core search volume was up by 7.8% Y/Y in the first two months of 1Q vs. 8.8% Y/Y growth in 4Q.
AOL February domestic core search market share stayed flat at 2.5% in February. AOL February core search volume declined by 29.3% Y/Y vs. a 27.8% Y/Y decline in January. AOL domestic core search volume was down 28.5%