Yahoo Replaces Google As Default Search Provider in Firefox

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Yahoo and Mozilla just announced a “strategic five-year partnership that makes Yahoo the default search experience for Firefox in the United States on mobile and desktop.” The companies said they will explore other potential “future product integrations and distribution opportunities to other markets.”

Yahoo is thus going to displace Google the current Firefox search provider. Firefox was at one time the main alternative to Microsoft’s IE browser but has been supplanted for many by Google’s Chrome, now the world’s top browser. In mobile Firefox has struggled to find an entry point.

Firefox has a roughly 16 percent browser market share on the desktop in the US market according to StatCounter. Google and Firefox have had a less congenial relationship since the former launched competitive browser Chrome. The last Google-Firefox search deal was in 2011.

While the Yahoo deal makes sense for both parties, there may be some monetary risk for Firefox in leaving Google. That will have to be seen. However Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer characterizes search as a growth area for the company in her blog post about the partnership:

At Yahoo, we believe deeply in search – it’s an area of investment and opportunity for us. It’s also a key growth area for us – we’ve now seen 11 consecutive quarters of growth in our search revenue on an ex-TAC basis. 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. I’m also excited about the long-term framework we developed with Mozilla for future product integrations and expansion into international markets.

The new Yahoo search experience on Firefox will debut next month. Mayer says it will offer “a clean, modern and immersive design that reflects input from the Mozilla team.” From the screens being shown in Mayer’s post it looks a lot like Google.

This new clean look could also be a prelude to a new and improved Yahoo search UI more generally. (Danny will be talking with Yahoo Marissa Mayer shortly and we’ll update this post and his at Marketing Land accordingly.)

To engage in some speculation, implied in the press release, Yahoo could eventually become the search provider for Firefox OS mobile devices around the world. Those devices are just starting to come into the market and their future is a bit uncertain given Android’s aggressive efforts targeting the low end of the smartphone market.

The press release says this partnership is the most significant for Yahoo in the last five years. Though Firefox’s share is relatively small compared to Chrome and IE, the deal will still drive millions of queries to Yahoo each month and should help boost search-related ad revenue.

Postscript: It’s still not clear whether Yahoo is taking over from Google in Europe as the default search provider for Firefox. According to the Mozilla blog post, in Russia Yandex is now the default search engine and in China it’s Baidu. Google continues to be an option on Firefox in both markets. In Europe the company is silent. Our assumption is that Google remains the default provider. Ironically losing that position would probably help Google (somewhat) in its antitrust negotiations in Europe.

Postscript 2: Mobile search ads will come from Bing and Yahoo Gemini. Of course desktop search ads will be from Bing.

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