The outlines of a serious challenge to Google’s domination have started to take shape in the last few weeks and, rather than being based on someone doing a better search engine (as per many of the previous ones), it is based on fragmenting data on the internet.
We’ve already seen Rupert Murdoch’s desire to take most of his news content away from Google’s reach and potentially put it within the reach of just those who pay direct or those who use Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
Last week’s Yahoo/Facebook tie-up is fundamentally the same: enrich the data outside of Google’s reach. Their deal involves sharing data between the two services for people who are users of both. So, for example, someone could log in to Yahoo and see activity from their Facebook friends then and there – without any need to go to the Facebook site.
For Facebook, it potentially brings it many new users in the form of current Yahoo users. For Yahoo, the Facebook integration gives people a reason to use their email service over that from Google and thereby takes data away from Google’s reach. Google can serve adverts to its Gmail customers, but can’t if they take their email custom to Yahoo instead.
With Yahoo also linking up with Microsoft to use Bing to power its searches, there is a Yahoo/Facebook/Microsoft triumvirate forming which could have enough strength to take data away from Google and survive.
That would have major implications across many areas of the internet, but crucially for the media it would also strengthen Rupert Murdoch’s own drive to get people (or Microsoft) paying to use his news content.