Yahoo has undoubtedly gained some search market share after its deal with Mozilla and the release of Firefox 34. Reports vary, but all show gains for Yahoo.
But how long will Yahoo’s gains last? Some bloggers assumed that most all Firefox users would eventually manually switch their preferred search engine back to Google. Others expected Yahoo to benefit quite significantly, assuming that typical Internet users may not know much of the difference between Google and Yahoo and will just roll with the change. But the general consensus was that Yahoo would experience a spike in usership and would then decline to an arguable degree as Google fans switched back over time.
Yahoo itself seemed to know that this gradual switchback would happen and made a move to prevent it. Last week, Yahoo released a beta interface layout that looks much more like Google, with fewer ads, a simpler navigation, and more concise search engine results. I first noticed the change when my Firefox upgraded and my default search engine automatically switched to Yahoo. Initially, I admit I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t on Google. But then I noticed the purple branding and realized I was on a new, cleaner version of Yahoo.
SearchEngineLand has reported on this Yahoo layout change but fails to connect the dots to the timely Firefox-Yahoo partnership. Yahoo seems to be adjusting its interface to prevent a kneejerk reaction for Firefox users to switch back to Google because of the obvious difference in the number of advertisements. To be fair, Yahoo is and has always been at its core an Internet marketing company and unabashedly displays revenue-generating ads across its variety of free popular services, including search, email, stocks, weather, sports, news, answers forums, automotive, and so on. Google’s founders, on the other hand, had to be dragged reluctantly into the inevitability of advertising on their new search engine. The plentiful ads on Yahoo and the simpler ads on Google should be understood in that context.
To Yahoo’s credit, users tend to frequent Yahoo’s array of Internet services as much or more than they do Google’s (roughly 192 million unique monthly visitors on Yahoo vs. 189 million on Google as of January 2014). For many online services, folks obviously don’t have a problem seeing ads, and in those realms, Yahoo tends to lead the pack.
But the world of online search is apparently unique. Search users clearly prefer SERPs with as few paid ads as possible (and as relevant ads as possible) that the Google brand has become known for. So Yahoo, hoping to capitalize as much as possible on its new search deal with Firefox, has evidently taken some pages out of the metaphorical Google search handbook.