On a fast break, Yahoo throws a curveball

Yahoo's Fast Break and Curveballs

Yahoo's curveball: Bing's fast breaking heart.

Today, bloggers are singing a new playground song: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) sitting in a tree. S-E-A-R-C-H-I-N-G. First comes Bing, then comes Marissa, then Yahoo uses its own technol-o-gy.

Rosy cheeked bloggers are giggling about supposed rumors from Yahoo insiders that the company intends to change the way it does search. Currently Yahoo uses Microsoft's Bing search technology, but notes passed around the classroom read that Yahoo fully intends to use its own in the near future.

Good rumors always spawn more questions: Is Yahoo in puppy love with its own search engine, or simply playing games to increase Microsoft's affection?

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers are Googling for answers.

Filling in for our humble blogwatcher Richi Jennings, is a humbler Stephen Glasskeys.


A year ago, Sharon Gaudin told us of plans for a big comeback:

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer says the company plans on a big comeback in the Internet search business, which means directly taking on industry giant Google.


The CEO said Yahoo will focus building technology that can improve search results and on building the company's share of desktop and mobile device users.


She did note that overhauling the Yahoo search business doesn't mean that the company must ditch its partnership with Microsoft.


The 2010 deal calls for Microsoft's Bing search engine to power Yahoo Web sites. With the deal, Yahoo essentially tossed out its own search engine in favor of Bing.  MORE


But Zach Miners digs himself out of trouble now:

Yahoo has struggled in recent years to grow its digital ad sales while competitors...have made gains in those areas. Since Marissa Mayer took the helm as CEO in 2012, she has aimed to make Yahoo cool again with a string of redesigns, acquisitions and...hires like...Katie Couric. Some of those moves...may have netted the company more users and more developer talent, but not yet an upswing in advertising sales.


But for the fourth quarter, Yahoo's performance in the area of digital advertising was not stellar. While [Yahoo] reported some increases in the number of ads sold, the money [it] generated from those products dropped.  MORE


In a tight squeeze, Mark Hachman needs some wiggle room:

In an effort to wiggle free of its pre-existing search agreement with Microsoft, Yahoo is fast-tracking an effort to develop search technology, according to a report.


This week, Yahoo's Mayer was asked about reviving either its own internal search program, or resurrecting "Panama," a 2006 ad program designed to more accurately weight paid ads on a number of characteristics, rather than just on advertiser bids.


Is Yahoo developing a full-fledged search engine? The aggressive timing of the programs would seem to argue against it. Yahoo's search strategy, since the Bing transition, has been to encourage users to "search" by showing them articles and other topics related to what they've viewed before.  MORE


Pitching a fit, Kara Swisher also searches and dribbles:

According to numerous sources inside Yahoo, CEO Marissa Mayer has ordered up two under-the-radar initiatives...that could potentially get the company back into algorithmic search as well as search advertising.


The internal code names for the efforts...are borrowed from sports. In this case, basketball and baseball: Projects Fast Break and Curveball, respectively.


Sources said the plan is being done as part of a contemplation of how Yahoo can accelerate the end of...its longterm search and advertising partnership with Microsoft. Currently, Yahoo only has control over the search experience, but Mayer clearly wants more purview over the business.


Sources said Mayer has put a priority on the projects...which could eventually result in a full search engine, possibly more oriented to mobile than the desktop, where Yahoo once played big.  MORE


Like a boss, Selena Larson leverages her strengths:

Yahoo faces a thorny legal problem in extracting itself from a multiyear contract with Microsoft. It also has a challenge in rebuilding its search team, where it has lost much of the talent it built up over the years competing with Google.


Yahoo has some assets it could leverage in this push, like Boss, Yahoo's search API. Boss let developers build search products on top of Yahoo's search technology. But it's clear that Boss hasn't gotten much attention recently.  MORE


Short on time, Richard Nieva has different priorities:

The [Fast Break and Curveball] projects are reportedly priorities for [Yahoo], both with three-to-four month time frames, and involving some of the company's bigwigs. ... [Mobile head Adam Cahan's] involvement indicates a strong mobile bent, which is not surprising since Yahoo has been beating the mobile drum loudly under CEO Marissa Mayer.


Currently, Yahoo is steeped in a 10-year deal with Microsoft, in which the back end of its search operations is powered by Bing, while Yahoo still controls the user experience. But the deal has some built in "outs" for each company, based on revenue and performance expectations.  MORE


Meanwhile, Alex Wilhem experiments with levers:

If the [Fast Break and Curveball] projects are serious — meaning they are more than experiments or attempts at leverage for the coming discussion it will have with Microsoft on per-search revenue — Yahoo could be working to create a product that will replace nearly one-third of its current revenue.


Financially...the Microsoft [search] deal is something of a boon for Yahoo, providing revenue stability in a time of transition.


That's the nice way to put it. In reality, Yahoo needs that firehose of Redmond dollars to cover for it as it uses future Alibaba money to (hopefully) buy revenue momentum. So far that isn't working, as we recently saw.  MORE

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