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Microsoft And Yahoo: What's In It For You?

In this morning's column, I try to see what individual Web users--not advertisers, not other Internet companies, not the stock market--might get out of a Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo.

After taking some time to survey each company's Web sites and services, I found some individual things to like--for instance, Microsoft's Live Search Maps and Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site--but not much to give me confidence that a combined company would quickly build on those strengths. These companies have had enough trouble developing their existing Web properties, and the massive organizational turmoil following a corporate takeover would not help matters.

You can hear me expand on these thoughts in today's podcast: listen/subscribe/iTunes.

There's another point that, in retrospect, I should have made: One of the worst aspects of Microsoft's Web strategy has been its inability to pick a name and stick with it. We've gone from MSN to .Net to Live to Windows Live--and I may have missed one or two rebrandings in that list. Presumably, Microsoft would have to toss yet another moniker to adopt Yahoo's name for its online properties... unless it somehow labors under the delusion that MSNdotNetWindowsLive has more "brand equity" than Yahoo.

Now, I'd like to give you all a chance to repeat my research. Take a look at Microsoft and Yahoo's offerings in Web search, Web-mail and instant messaging, then tell me which one you prefer in the comments. For extra credit, suggest which features of one company's site or service you'd like to add to the other's.

* Web search: Live Search or Yahoo Search

* Web-mail: Windows Live Hotmail or Yahoo Mail

* Instant messaging: Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo Messenger

We can also talk about this, or any of my other recent reviews, during my Web chat this afternoon. It starts at 2 p.m., but you can submit a question in advance too.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 7, 2008; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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I use both Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail. I like Yahoo! better. I use both MSN and Yahoo Messenger. I have more fun, and spend much more time on Yahoo!. It just works better. It's easier to find people with like interests on Yahoo!. Yahoo! Search, well, it works better too. The advanced search gets the job done every time. This Merger should leave Yahoo! untouched. My humble opinion, and 2 cents.

Posted by: CircleGuy | February 7, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I've not seen M$ services as being anything to rave about, especially considering you can find alternatives with fewer catches for most of the services they offer.

Yahoo may change that, but it remains to be seen.

Posted by: barcodedmaggot | February 7, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I tend to agree with CircleGuy, but I have to admit that RP has a point on Live Search Maps - they are an improvement over Yahoo. However, I have much more confidence in Yahoo's developers to improve things in general. Microsoft should just shut down as much of its on-line services as possible and cede everything to Yahoo.

Posted by: slar | February 7, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I don't use the MS online services. I have a Yahoo mail account, but only use the Yahoo ID for access to Yahoo Groups, and have the Yahoo Group emails sent to a non-Yahoo account.

Posted by: Ghak | February 7, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I find that I use Google for a majority of my online searches. I use Google Toolbar, Desktop, and GMail.

Yesterday I tried Google Maps on my cell phone. I wanted to find the closest gas station. It found my current location via GPS and I had to actually type in "gas" into the search box. It gave me the closest gas stations and I had to select which gas station I was interested in.

Then I tried the same search in Windows Live. Live not only told me the closest gas station, but the current price for gas at that station (something Google did not do).

I just did a search in Google for a few keywords related to my web site (Northern Virginia Portrait Photography) and Google returned my site listed on the 8th position of page #2 of the results. Then I did Live and my site was #3 on page #1 of the search results. In Yahoo! it was #2 on page #1 of the search results.

Obviously, Google isn't using the same formula to generate search results.

Posted by: NealJ | February 7, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I use both Yahoo mail and Hotmail. Yahoo mail is ok (better than gmail, IMHO), but I HATE hotmail. I think Google needs a strong rival, but it easy to imagine that MS would just screw up Yahoo.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 7, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

MS is great for the desktop.
Google is great for search.
Yahoo! is great for the web (except search).

Posted by: Deepanjan | February 8, 2008 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Let me formulate a very simplified equation that partly embraces the previous statement of Deepanjan:

(i) MS = king of the desktop.
(ii) Google = king of search.
(iii) Yahoo = king of ?
(iv) Yahoo = very strong brand in web anyway

(i) + (iii) ==> king of ?

(i) + (iv) ==> king of desktop and very strong brand in web anyway

In light of the increasing convergence of desktop & web (incl. mobile devices) where the big 3 protagonists are still figuring out how to position themselves. A merger between MS & Yahoo will make the positioning challenge a real thrill that will blow a very cold wind into Googles face.

(v) Consumer = Winner?

I opted for iGoogle: gmail, documents, photos / picasa, etc. It's easy to use, not overloaded at first sight, and still provides a bunch of useful and coherently integrated tools with the right features and appropriate flexibiliy - like a swiss army knife.

Posted by: Xpert26 | February 8, 2008 5:35 AM | Report abuse

In the column to which you post a link above, rob, you pose an incisive, if somewhat rhetorical question : «But once people have the habit of directing their queries to one search engine, why would they want to waste time with a just-as-good contender ?» The same question could be posed even if the contender were somewhat better. This is the thing that worries me about a Microsoft-Yahoo tie-up ; given Microsoft's 90 % OS-dominance on the desktop, if Yahoo search is bundled to the OS, as I am certain Microsoft intends to do in the event that this hostile take-over bid succeeds, how many unsophisticated customers are going to take the trouble to use a rival which may be better, but not so significantly that the game seems worth the candle ? It would be unfortunate if such bundling led, as I think it most likely would, to a stifling of development in the search field. Admittedly, a Windows user doesn't have to download anything to perform, say, a Google search, and it is also the case that an alternative web browser to that bundled into Windows now stands for some 28 % of browser use here in Europe - and even more in Oceania - despite the fact that a download is required, but given Microsoft's well-documented monopolistic tendencies, I hope the regulatory agencies see to it that if the buyout goes through, bundling of the Yahoo search engine with a Windows OS is *not* permitted. In that case, all the deal would do is give Microsoft more purchase on the «cloud» than the firm has hitherto been able to establish through its own efforts, but this is probably not something that per se represents a great problem for users. But one thing Microsoft's history makes clear - the company must be watched - and regulated - closely, otherwise monopolistic tendencies which definitely are deleterious to the interests of users are bound to come to the fore....


Posted by: mhenriday | February 8, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I use Google, Yahoo, Hotmail each in that order for different email reasons. I don't care for Google's method of storing, but overall, it's what I use most.

For Search, Google, yahoo.

For some reason, on the last Tuesday's downloads, my address bar search changed to Windows Live

I have done everything in my power and many searches, plus asking on a few specialist IT forums. Google alerts has been producing the same question over the past 4 days. "How do I get rid of msn search? I Haven't used it in years."

I won't go into all that's been done, (Too many "get FireFox" responses) but I can tell you that if this is the way the Ballmer bounces, I am going to learn as much as I can to block MSN in any way I can. goodbye hotmail, goodbye yahoo.

Posted by: Sugar | February 8, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

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