Web battleground set for shake-up

Web battleground set for shake-up

As Microsoft bids to take over Yahoo, is the end in sight for Google’s market dominance?

So, Microsoft has intentions on Yahoo, and hostile ones at that. Last year, when Microsoft first made a move on Yahoo, such a purchase, takeover or marriage seemed very unlikely. Surely these two fish, although perhaps dwarfed in recent years by Google, were big enough to survive on their own as independents?

Since then, neither has really improved its position in the search business. Microsoft has made moves with its LiveSearch, but has hardly set the world alight. Meanwhile, over at Yahoo Towers, one of the recent events that most sticks in the mind is the fact that the firm is shedding 1,000 jobs. With such stiff competition from the Web 2.0 world alone, firms like Yahoo should be throwing staff at innovation, not kicking them out the door.

Almost a decade ago, Microsoft and Yahoo ruled the roost, while firms such as Ask Jeeves and Google snapped at their heels. Now Microsoft is the third-largest player in the search market, Yahoo is second and Google is top. In the US, Google has a 56.3 per cent market share, Yahoo has 17.7 per cent and Microsoft has just 13.8 per cent. Microsoft and Yahoo look like minnows ­ admittedly well fed ones ­ but minnows all the same.

Google’s dominance has been swift. I remember when it was “the one with the mostly blank screen”. Now when people search, they Google the firm’s transition into verb status is a fait accompli, and seemingly there is nothing that can be done about it.

Except there could be. A combined Yahoo/Microsoft­ Micryoo, Yacrosoft? ­ would boast a search market share of just over 30 per cent. Although this still seems slight in comparison to the portly Google, it is enough to put the wind up the upstart.

In a statement posted on its company blog, Google called the Microsoft bid “troubling”, adding, “This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It’s about preserving the underlying principles of the internet: openness and innovation.”

Google has done everything it can to cement the position that it currently holds, but now it could be forced to surrender this control to external forces and start lobbying the internet for support.

Since its early days as the ad-free search site, Google has diversified widely, and now is seen by many as a personal data harvester, an uncaring and intrusive advert server. Where once it would have received nothing but sympathy, now some watchers will be waiting to see the firm smacked across its face, and its position ­ if not usurped at least shaken.