Does New Deal Spell a Search Comeback for Yahoo?

In a five-year agreement between Mozilla and Yahoo, the once reigning search engine has now become the default search engine for most North American Firefox mobile and desktop users. The announcement came after Mozilla’s decade-long pact with Google ended, and Mozilla chose to review its options and strategy.  Does this significant change mean that Yahoo is making a comeback, and could once again go head-to-head with the seemingly unbeatable Google search engine?

Firefox and the Future of Yahoo Search

According to Net Applications, a leading web analytics firm, Firefox had a 13.9% usage share of desktop browsers in October 2014, behind only Chrome and Explorer. That figure represents the low end of a typical month for Firefox, as it averages 14% to 19% of the market share. While the percentage is admirable, the people behind the Mozilla-Yahoo agreement hope to increase it. When discussing the new partnership, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made her intentions clear, writing in her blog that “At Yahoo, we believe deeply in search – it’s an area of investment and opportunity for us… This partnership helps to expand our reach in search and gives us an opportunity to work even more closely with Mozilla to find ways to innovate in search, communications, and digital content.”

To that end, Mozilla and Yahoo have worked together to improve the search engine, hoping to make it more modern and immersive, and to attract more users. So, when will the new and improved Yahoo search engine be available for trying out? For some people, it’s already on their computers.

The Launch

The initial launch of the improved Yahoo search engine went out on December 1st, 2014, and impacted only U.S. Firefox users. However, all Yahoo users will be able to engage with the upgraded search engine in early 2015. Of course, regardless of the effort put into improving the UX, the success or failure of the partnership will hinge directly on whether or not users like the changes that have been made.

Users who don’t want to use Yahoo will have other options, of course. Mozilla plans to continue building in alternate search options, including Google and Bing. However, given the effort put into this arrangement, both Yahoo and Mozilla are hoping users take to Yahoo and decide not to switch.

It is important to reiterate that the launch is not global. For example, Mozilla currently has partnerships with Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China that will not be affected. However, in a joint statement, Mozilla and Yahoo indicated that their new relationship “ also provides a framework for exploring future product integrations and distribution opportunities to other markets.” The statement didn’t allude to any specifics, but it sounds like the Mozilla-Yahoo arrangement may eventually impact more than just the user’s search experience.

The influence that the Yahoo-Mozilla partnership will have on the search engine market is unknown. Google dominates the market and has for some time, and people are creatures of habit. So, will they give Yahoo a second chance at search engine dominance? For outsiders, it’s really a case of ‘wait and see’. They want to try it out first. However, for Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who called the arrangement “ … the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years…” , success certainly seems plausible.