Facebook and Yahoo: No, But What If…?

This weekend suddenly the rumour popped up that Facebook and Yahoo were supposedly talking about creating a search engine, something which also was denied in a later stage. That off course led to a lot of speculation: wass this really true? Would it make sense? What about Bing? And would a combination between Yahoo and Facebook have any chance of succeeding, let alone beating a Google or Bing?

We decided to drop this question on the desks of some industry experts to see how they would feel about this if it were true (which it most probably isn’t). Because we can dream right, dream of a Google competitor. Or not?

Mike Grehan, Incisive Media

“I doubt if Yahoo wants to get into the search race again. And Facebook could have gone that route anytime as they have had cash and resources enough to do it. However, I could see Facebook helping Yahoo become more social with its huge number of subscribers. And certainly, Yahoo could help with social search at Facebook as Yahoo answers was a big hit for a while.

 

Crawling the web? Nah, that’s Google’s domain and it’s actually a bit 1999 these days.”

Julie Joyce, Linkfishmedia

“I’ll be optimistic here and say that an alliance between Yahoo and Facebook could work, considering the sheer amount of people who use Facebook and would use a FB-partnered search engine. We definitely need a good strong Google alternative and with Bing out there doing well, I’d love to see a third. If what I see in my Facebook stream is any representative of who will use it though, gah…they should be ready to cater to people who like to talk about Jesus and cats.”

Andrew Girdwood, BigMouthMedia (now DigitasLBI)

“Facebook is the internet for some people. Given this strong position; a Yahoo/Facebook search engine could and would compete with Google and Bing. Yahoo is still a name that millions recognise and still trust. Facebook has the user base and a prominent search box.”

Andy Atkins-Krüger, WebCertain

“Two things were not mentioned in the speculative article. Firstly, the fact that Bing already has a relationship with Facebook and powers its search results for sites outside of Facebook – you can still search the web with Bing from within Facebook. The second thing is the leak that Microsoft had tried to sell Bing to Facebook! So, I think this would more likely a three-way deal. Microsoft ‘sells’ Bing to a joint venture of Yahoo and Facebook! Wow! Now that would be a development!”

Rishi Lakhani, Independent Search Consultant

“Should it work?

 

Yes. Yahoo and Facebook together have the traffic and user volumes to make this work, more so than Bing can. Social search is still in its infancy, and both yahoo and Facebook have expertise in the one arena that google has tried again and again to capture. Social. It failed with Orkut, Wave, Buzz, and Google Plus. It had the chance to use youtube to build a community, and frankly failed at that. they should have Google Local and Reviews to build a review and consumer community, but have not still realised that potential exists.

 

Yahoo has Flickr, Yahoo answers, Yahoo Mail, and actually a large network of sites that bring in an insane volume of traffic. They are a publisher that does publishing best, development and monetisation is their weakness. Facebook, as we all know, knows social.

 

The fact that Google is going after the social and search space isn’t a coincidence – with copious amounts of content being generated daily, people are looking to friends and their own networks to help separate the wheat form the chaff. Google knows this, and are desperately trying to get into that space.

 

So going back to the question – Could it work? Yes.

 

The question we need to ask is, WILL it work? The answer is maybe. But I doubt it.
Coming back to the core skills of the two organisations, neither really have the experience to deal with Search, Monetisation, or indeed, google’s biggest problem, Spam. The first few months of the life of any live project that they launch will be littered with webspam. This may kill it even before they get a chance to get it off the ground.

 

Realistically, they could roll in their strengths to create not a search engine, but an answers engine, and what could be, the worlds largest content “walled garden”. This content and answers engine would be a better fit to their skill sets, and be the real answer to social search – AND they own all the primary content. Leaving them to monetise it. “

Dixon Jones, Majestic SEO

“That sounds like a story that has yet to play out. If I was Facebook, I would be much more interested in building a search engine with Microsoft, not with Yahoo. So the whole play might yet end up with another Microsoft takeover bid for Yahoo and this time around I would think that the door could be a little more open than past time.”

Fili Wiese, Netlead

“Absolutely, I believe this could be a great opportunity for Yahoo and Facebook. Both Yahoo and Facebook have a lot of click data and other useful data for ranking to make this a success. Not to mention that this would be driven by two formidable women, both knowing how their primary competitor Google works on the inside and what users want from a search engine. Their primary challenge in my eyes would be how to make this work on an internationally level (with all languages, cultures, etc) as quickly as possible. Without the international focus, next to English, this would be doomed to become another Bing with limited market share.

 

I guess that Google would most likely welcome the competition, and I would hope it would make Google innovate more again. That said, Google would survive this and potentially become stronger in the long term. Yahoo/Facebook would most definitely grow because of this and -for the first time in my opinion- have a real long term potential. What would happen to Bing I am not sure. I suspect that Bing would be more nervous about this potential alliance than Google, as a new Yahoo/Facebook search engine would most likely have a significant impact their already limited market share. Not only because Bing would probably be losing out on providing their results to the Yahoo search result pages but also because Facebook could really push their new search engine to the billion users in their network. For Bing this could be a very very bad day if it would happen.

 

I would be delighted to see this new potential search engine come to life. It would also be an interesting time for SEOs and other online marketeers, with many golden opportunities. I believe a serious effort to create a new Yahoo/Facebook search engine with an international focus would benefit all users worldwide.”

Jon Quinton, SEOGadget

“Personally I think a potential collaboration between Yahoo! and Facebook would be a pretty exciting proposition. Thinking about it from a ‘normal’ web users point of view it makes perfect sense – Facebook has established trust among such a huge number of people; if Facebook is most peoples preferred point of call for social networking then why wouldn’t they want to use it for general search too? It would also make sense for both Yahoo! and Facebook, with the latter probably being quite keen right now to look for new ways to increase their share price!

 

If this deal would go ahead then I’d expect Google’s market share to shift in a really big way. If anyone can ever dream of taking back some of Google’s share then it would have to be a super power such as this. Start-ups certainly don’t stand a chance. However, the practicalities of doing such a deal are going to be extremely complex (Yahoo! signed a 10 deal with Microsoft in 2009) so my guess is that this isn’t going to be happening for some time.”

Kristjan Mar Hauksson, Nordic eMarketing

“It is clear to me that Facebook has been looking into this space for some time, no Nostradamus skills needed for that prediction. If Facebook in cooperation with the likes of Yahoo! or Bing would create a new search engine they would need to be 100% sure it is better than Google and their business plan needs to be based on long term ROI – Also I am not sure Yahoo is the best partner, but then again if not Yahoo or Bing then who?”

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Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.