It's not always easy,
And sometimes life can be deceiving,
I'll tell you one thing, its always better when we're together
~Jack Johnson, Better Together
News leaked out this morning on the All Things Digital Blog (and subsequently widely carried by the New York Times, PC Mag Online, Wired and so forth) that Microsoft officials were in Silicon Valley today to meet with Yahoo! and finally hammer out a deal.
The two companies have been doing a dance since Spring, 2008. The talks began, the talks ended and rumors flew, but the two organizations remained separate. In the interim, Microsoft released its new search engine Bing and made some progress in the search market, but no matter how well Bing may do, it can't gain as much search engine market share as it could get by simply joining forces with Yahoo!.
Not An Outright Purchase
Whatever happens, and these are just rumors right now, all pointing to that one All Things Digital blog post, all things point to an ad agreement, which would be an easy way to get the ball rolling. Google's total domination in the search engine advertising market is overwhelming to the two companies. Perhaps if they put their collective businesses together, they could make a respectable dent in Google's monumental market share. It's never clear how these deals will go, but it's certain that neither company offers the power they get from a united entity.
Bing Shows Promise
It's still very early, but Bing, buoyed by a big marketing campaign, and a seeming desire by consumers to find the next big thing in search, have had a good first month and a half. Ben Parr reports on Mashable, that Bing was the 13th most visited site on the web in its first month, beating such traffic heavy weights as Digg, Twitter and CNN. People seem to like the interface, and there's been a lot of positive feedback about the changing, high-resolution image that appears each day on the Bing Home page.
Having tested Bing a bit myself, I can say I haven't seen enough to drive me away from using Google as my first choice, but I do like some of the features they have built in to the search experience to help end users find the information they need. I'm just not convinced how much people actually use the additional features to find what what they want, or simply ignore them, check the list of results and move on. Regardless of my personal view, however, it seems clear that Bing is gaining some traction, but that could evaporate as people try the new thing and inertia drives them back into the arms of Google.
Bing and Yahoo! Together
It's never clear what will happen when two companies combine, and should Microsoft and Yahoo! decide to do that, it will take some time to see how well the two company cultures and products can merge. For now, if they can just hack out an ad deal they'll have taken one small baby step toward a combined entity. Whether it gets further than that (or even to that point), it's too soon to say, but to paraphrase Jack Johnson, it would be better with them together.