Firefox switches to Yahoo as its default search engine. Should Google care?

Firefox announced it will dump Google and begin using Yahoo as its default search engine starting in December. But with 67 percent of the search engine market share, should Google care?

Paul Sakuima/AP/File
A worker walks into Yahoo headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., in this July 29, 2009. Yahoo will supplant Google's search engine on Firefox's Web browser in the U.S., signaling Yahoo's resolve to regain some of the ground that it has lost in the most lucrative part of the Internet's ad market. The five-year alliance was announced Nov. 19.

After a 10-year partnership, Firefox and Google are breaking up.

Mozilla announced late Wednesday that Yahoo will be the default search engine on its Firefox Web browser, replacing Google. The deal begins in December and lasts five years. The financial terms of the agreement were not announced. 

The new deal means that any Firefox user who conducts a search through the Firefox browser will be automatically routed through Yahoo. Mozilla says Firefox users make 100 billion searches in their browser every year, which will increase the number of people who use Yahoo. Five years ago, Microsoft cut a deal to run Yahoo's search business, and now powers Yahoo's search engine. Yahoo is the third most popular search engine, with only 10 percent of the market share, according to comScore

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's chief executive officer, said the new deal has a revenue-sharing agreement and would help the company boost its struggling search market share, according to Reuters.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Mozilla. Mozilla is an inspirational industry leader who puts users first and focuses on building forward-leaning, compelling experiences," Ms. Mayer said in a statement. "We’re so proud that they’ve chosen us as their long-term partner in search, and I can’t wait to see what innovations we build together." 

Google has been good to Firefox. The search engine has been the default on Firefox since 2004. In 2012, Google was paying between two-thirds and three-quarters of Firefox's $311 million revenue stream, according to CNN Money

For a longer time, Firefox was a more popular Web browser than Google Chrome. In 2011, when the pair last signed a deal, Firefox had more than 25 percent of the market share verses Google Chrome's 18 percent, according to StatCounter, who ranks the browsers by the number of page views generated. But Google quickly overtook Firefox. By October 2014, Google Chrome's market share was 41 percent, more than double that of Firefox.

Google remains the dominate force in the search engine market. Around 67 percent of all searches are done through Google. And even with the Yahoo-Firefox partnership, Firefox users can easily switch the default search engine back to Google.

Even so, Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, told CNET that Google should be worried about the new deal. "This could mean a significant switch in market share away from Google toward Yahoo," she said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Yahoo will be working with Mozilla to improve user experience by adding more photos and graphics to its search results.

"Our teams worked closely with Mozilla to build a clean, modern, and immersive search experience that will launch first to Firefox’s U.S. users in December and then to all Yahoo users in early 2015," Mayer wrote in a blog post. "The interactive and integrated experience also better leverages our world-class content and personalization technologies."

In the deal, Yahoo will only be the default search engine in the US. Firefox will use Baidu in China and Yandex NV in Russia.

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