Throughout the later half of 2002 - rumors had begun to circulate regarding the status and future of Yahoo's search results. For a long time Yahoo had been using search results provided to them directly from Google.

Today, this still stands true.

When many caught on that the Google and Yahoo Partnership was set to expire in September of 2002, many thought a change would in fact take place to shake up the industry. That change never came, and an extension of their agreement was accepted by both parties.

It is normal within any industry to reflect upon some of the major things that happened at the end of the year. With something as chaotic as the search engines though, it is much easier to forget about the past and dream up what could happen in the future.

This past year, one of the rumors was that Inktomi may begin providing Yahoo with some search results - and actually replace Google. That has yet to happen, but who knows. Perhaps this is something in store for 2003.

In the spirit of peering into the future at the things that await us all, let's now take a look into what could happen if these rumors of an Inktomi and Yahoo partnership were to ever come true.

It's no secret that the value of Inktomi inclusion is on a decline. Earlier in the year, you may recall that AOL Search dropped their partnership with Inktomi, and later selected to offer search results directly from Google. While this was not at all a surprise for AOL, it had an immediate impact on how optimization professionals and marketers viewed the overall worth of an Inktomi subscription.

While Inktomi resellers have likely taken a hit with revenue since then, Inktomi is still a legitimate source of traffic for sites that rank well. So, imagine if you could, Yahoo search results provided by Inktomi.

Essentially, you would see many of the same results from Inktomi's MSN search provided to Yahoo users. There's no doubt that the Inktomi subscriptions would then hold an immense value - but what about the search quality?

The trouble with a partnership between Yahoo and Inktomi is the fact that Inktomi needs to step up their search quality. Looking at MSN's search results as an example, it is rare to see more than a few hundred results (from Inktomi) for the same search queries that yield thousands or more over at Google. Beyond that, there are usually dozens of more appropriate resources lost on the web because their owners cannot cough up the annual subscription fees for Inktomi's attention.

So, if Yahoo selects Inktomi, partners and resellers of Inktomi (such as Position Technologies) would be ecstatic. Would Yahoo's users feel the same way though?

Before answering that question, take a step back. Perform a search on Google, and then perform a search on Position Technologies' Pure Search ( Search for something that you may want to research before you actually have a chance to purchase it. With that intention in mind, what do you find?

Chances are, you will see one thing. Perhaps this is too honest, but the results from Inktomi will be tainted a bit by affiliate programs, spam, and the page you end up at will likely have a popup or three. With Google, you're more likely going to end up at an actual reference page where someone has written a review. [This will vary based on what words you have included in your search]

This is where the major flaw comes into play with Yahoo's user base. The vast majority of Yahoo users search with Google results without knowing it. The other thing that is true about the majority of Yahoo users is that they're used to things coming to them. Weather, email access, news, sports coverage, and yes - relevant results. By taking away one of those free services like the relevant search results they use each and every day - Yahoo is welcoming a decline in usage, membership, and growth. Worst of all, Yahoo is subject to becoming the most hated search portal for optimizers - with an enormous user base, and no option aside from paid entry.

So Inktomi... So far as I see it - if the rumors are at all true, and you are in the world of negotiations with Yahoo, I wish you luck. You have come a long way and no doubt took a hit with the loss of AOL search earlier in 2002. Just clean up your indexes a bit, make the search functions and results a bit more stable and advanced... And you can become another Google for all of us optimizers and marketers.
December 23, 2002

Eric Lander is currently working as an executive manager at The First Listings Marketing Group, an SEO firm located in Taunton Massachusetts. With over 8 years of professional optimization experience, Eric continues to focus his work on client based optimization and educating them on search related marketing. For more information on Eric, please see his professional blog at

Search Engine Guide > Eric Lander > The Future of Yahoo - In Inktomi's Hands?