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Microsoft’s Bing seems to have galvanised Google and Yahoo! into action, with the online search market now seeing a huge dose of innovations, all with the consumer at the centre, reports Anita Sharan.

business Updated: Oct 25, 2009 23:44 IST
Anita Sharan

If you want to access your Gmail from your Yahoo! homepage, you can do so now. Never mind that Google — that offers Gmail — and Yahoo! are archrivals in the internet search business. That’s a small indication of the big shift Yahoo! has initiated, which is finding expression in its new “It’s Y!ou” global advertising campaign that signs off with the Yahoo! yodel. Yahoo!’s new homepage allows access to content and sites on any screen from its homepage.

Yahoo! has a newly defined brand mission: to be at the centre of people’s online lives. Arun Tadanki, managing director, Yahoo! India, says, “Till now, most media have been about content published by media owners. But now the consumer can choose what he wants to consume on Yahoo! The new homepage gives him that flexibility.”

Yahoo! has added a host of new applications, features and the ability to customise applications as the consumer wants. It offers new features that make for personalisation of information access, sharing and browsing experience. “We’ve become an open platform — there’s no limit to what we are offering,” says Tadanki.

To the extent that Yahoo! has tied up with Bing, Microsoft’s new online search engine launched in June that replaced “Search is a game of scale,” says Tadanki. The tie-up will provide that. In the 10-year agreement that kicks off next year, searches on Yahoo!’s sites will be generated by Bing.

Microsoft will license Yahoo!’s search technology. AdCenter, Microsoft’s ad search offering, will replace Yahoo!’s ad service.

Hemant Sachdev, joint MD, consumer and online, Microsoft India, says, “While Bing brings in the search technology to the tie-up, Yahoo! brings in marketing capabilities. Advertisers want scale and we will provide that.”

Bing is a powerful search engine in its own right, challenging Google, thus far the market leader by a strong margin on user base and advertising. Yahoo! has all along trailed at second position by a considerable gap.

Bing’s entry appears to have galvanised the category into high activity, though Google continues to talk like a market leader, which it is. “We are constantly innovating on all our products. Competition is welcome. It spurs innovation and innovation is at the heart of what we do,” says Narasimha Jayakumar, business head, Google India.

Google has also introduced a number of innovative additions and upgrades to its products and services — folders and search on Gmail, Google maps and customised map maker on search, Google search on the mobile platform, the new Chrome web browser, easy photo viewing, among others. In India, it offers Google news in four Indian languages and search in nine Indian languages.

Unlike Yahoo! that has advertised on regular media, Google prefers to generate strong word-of-mouth for itself through viral (online) marketing and placing in-house advertisements across its content network of around 30,000 websites and blogs.

Is Bing therefore the ‘game-changer’ to Google’s ‘leader’ and Yahoo!’s ‘challenger’ positions? Sachdev says, “In some sense, Bing is focused on changing the search paradigm. It is a ‘decision’ engine rather than a ‘search’ engine, enabling consumer decisions through more precise search results.” Research indicates that 66 per cent of people are increasingly turning to search engines to assist in making decisions, beyond mere navigation and information downloads which is what search engines have conventionally catered to. He asserts that Bing has shaken up the search industry.

Well, it’s certainly made an impact, by now garnering a good 16.28 per cent share of the online search market in the US, according to Comscore, against Google’s 60-plus per cent.

Bing is more visually-oriented and has some features such as auto-suggestion, best match, hover-preview of listed information and specific-search instant deliveries.