In an unprecedented shakeup in the search engine market long dominated by Google, rival Yahoo recently gained significant share in the U.S. search market, jumping from 8.6 percent in November to 10.4 percent in December. According to StatCounter, a large Web traffic analytics firm, this is the highest share Yahoo has seen since 2009.
The bite came directly out of Google’s market share, which dropped from 77.3 percent to 75.2 percent, its lowest since 2008, when StatCounter first started tracking global search statistics. Who or what is responsible for this slight but significant shift of power? The credit or the blame, depending on one’s perspective, rests squarely on the shoulders of Mozilla’s Firefox.
Killa Mozilla Comes Out Swinging
Headquartered in Mountain View, California, Mozilla Corporation launched its free, open source browser Firefox in 2002, and in 2004, signed a deal with Google to use the search engine as the default for searches on the browser. And now, in late November, Mozilla announced a five-year partnership with Yahoo as the new default search engine for the U.S. market.
Citing a new, more localized approach to search, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard said, “We are ending our practice of having a single global default search provider.” In the U.S., Yahoo has replaced Google as the new default search engine in Firefox, in Russia Yandex Search, and in China Baidu is the default option. “We are adopting a more local and flexible approach to increase choice and innovation on the Web, with new and expanded search partnerships by country,” explained Beard. Google and other search engines are still built in as options in these markets.
Firefox versus Google Chrome
Many in the industry are wondering whether the switch will help or hurt the Firefox browser, whose users represented just over 12 percent of U.S. Internet usage in December. Since its release in 2008, Google’s Chrome freeware web browser has taken off like wildfire, with an estimated 51% worldwide usage share of web browsers as of January of 2015. By all estimates it is the most widely used web browser in the world.
If Chrome continues to expand its market share and squeeze out Firefox, then Yahoo’s recent gains could fall by the wayside. A lot will depend on Mozilla’s revamp of Firefox, and whether or not users are happy with the Yahoo search engine.
“I doubt Google needs to worry,” said Danny Sullivan, founding editor of Marketing Land & Search Engine Land. “For one, that’s probably the high water mark. Unless Firefox suddenly grows share, everyone who likely could get switched has been now. And Google might claw back even the small share gone.”