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Yahoo growth stalls months after Mozilla deal

Gregg Keizer | June 29, 2015
Yahoo's share gains since November from a deal with Mozilla may be a clue about whether the search company can attract more users through the just-announced contract to change Internet Explorer's and Chrome's default search through installations of Oracle's Java.

Yahoo's share gains since November from a deal with Mozilla may be a clue about whether the search company can attract more users through the just-announced contract to change Internet Explorer's and Chrome's default search through installations of Oracle's Java.

Although the news of the Yahoo-Oracle partnership got the lion's share of attention, CEO Marissa Mayer also used last week's shareholder meeting to mention the Mozilla pact.

The five-year contract with Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, has boosted Yahoo's share of the U.S. search market, but growth has stalled for the last three months, according to measurement company comScore.

On Wednesday, Mayer asserted that the Mozilla deal -- negotiated last fall -- was "profitable," but didn't provide any numbers to back that up. Neither Yahoo nor Mozilla has disclosed how much the former paid to become Firefox's default search engine in the U.S.

By comScore's measurement, Yahoo accounted for 12.7 percent of all U.S. searches in May, the same share it controlled in both March and April. Although that was 2.5 percentage points higher than in November 2014 -- before Firefox began urging users to accept Yahoo as the default -- and represented a six-month increase of 25 percent, May's share was down from the January peak of 13 percent.

From all indications, Yahoo has gotten as much out of the Firefox deal as it will likely get. The flip-side is that Yahoo has hung onto most of what it grabbed from Google -- Firefox's previous default -- even as Google has tried to get users to return.

For May, comScore pegged Google's share at 64.1 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from the month prior. Microsoft's share rose that one-tenth of a point to end May at 20.3 percent. Because Bing powers Yahoo's search results, Microsoft's technology accounted for 31.4 percent of all U.S. searches, still less than half Google's 65.2 percent.

The partnership with Oracle that Mayer announced Wednesday has the potential for boosting Yahoo's search share significantly more than the one with Mozilla. But that's not guaranteed.

When users install or upgrade Oracle's Java, they're told that Microsoft Internet Explorer's (IE) and Google Chrome's default search engine will be changed to Yahoo. A pre-checked box on the dialog means that users must notice, then opt out of the switcheroo to prevent the change. People quickly stepping through a Java installation or upgrade to run a critical app -- like their online banking connection -- could easily miss the bundling and end up with an engine they don't want.

Together, IE and Chrome have a much larger share than Firefox, both globally and in the U.S. For instance, StatCounter's May numbers pegged the two at a combined 67 percent usage share in the U.S., while rival analytics vendor Net Applications marked the pair at a joint 82 percent globally.

 

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