The Microsoft Yahoo Fiasco: Impact on SharePoint and Web Search

May 5, 2008

You can’t look at a Web log with out dozens of postings about Microsoft’s adventure with Yahoo. You can grind through the received wisdom on Techmeme River, a wonderful as-it-happened service. In this Web log posting, I want to recap some of my views about this remarkable digital charge at a windmill. On this cheery Monday in rural Kentucky, I can see a modern Don Quixote, who looks quite a bit like Steve Ballmer, thundering down another digital hollow.

What’s the impact on SharePoint search?

Zip. Nada. None. SharePoint search is not one thing. Read my essay about MOSS and MSS. They add up to a MESS. I’m still waiting for the well-dressed but enraged Fast Search PR wizard to spear shake a pointed lance at me for that opinion. Fast Search is sufficiently complex and SharePoint sufficiently Microsoftian in its design to make quick movement in the digital swamp all but impossible.

A T Ball player can swing at the ball until he or she gets a hit, ideally for the parents a home run. Microsoft, like the T Ball player in the illustration, will be swinging for an online hit until the ball soars from the park, scoring a home run and the adulation of the team..

Will Fast Search & Transfer get more attention?

Nope. Fast Search is what it is. I have commented on the long slog this acquisition represents elsewhere. An early January 2008 post provides a glimpse of the complexity that is ESP (that’s enterprise search platform, not extrasensory perception). A more recent discussion talks about the “perfect storm” of Norwegian management expertise, Microsoft’s famed product manager institution, and various technical currents, which I posted on April 26, 2008. These posts caused Fast Search’s ever-infallible PR gurus to try and cook the Beyond Search’s goose. The goose, a nasty bird indeed, side-stepped the charging wunderkind and his hatchet.

Will Microsoft use the Fast Search Web indexing system for search?

Now that’s a good question. But it misses the point of the “perfect storm” analysis. To rip and replace the search requires some political horse trading within Microsoft and across the research and product units. Fast Search is arguably a better Web indexing system, but it was not invented at Microsoft, and I think that may present a modest hurdle for the Norwegian management wizards.

Can Microsoft pull the Fast Search system from Yahoo’s service and terminate any other third-party service deals?

Now you’re talking. These “normal” business moves are obvious steps for a post-Yahoo Microsoft to take. Yahoo, however, is in such a mess in terms of search, I don’t think this “normal” contract razzle dazzle will make much difference. Yahoo has more serious problems with search than

What’s Microsoft’s next move in Web search?

There will not be a single next move. Microsoft allows smart people to pursue the “agenda” in different ways. Microsoft R&D will be enjoined to out Google Google. The team will be given scope to create ever more magnetic search functionality. The mesh team will move forward to “bind” Microsoft’s many search flowers into a masterwork of digital ikebana.

Will Microsoft buy a leading Web site?

Sure. Microsoft needs traffic. You can find candidates by taking a Nielsen NetRating’s list of the Web sites with the most eyeballs, knock off Google sites and Yahoo sites. Whatever’s left is an acquisition candidate. But Mr. Liddell, Microsoft’s New Zealand-trained financial wizard, likes “big” deals, even desperate ones. Pick one. Your guess is better than mine. I use Google and stick to the obscure, specialist sites.,, and other “popular” Web sites are unexplored lands for me. Navigate to ClickZ and start reading summaries of what’s hot here.

Can Microsoft catch up with Google?

Nope. I’ve explained the reasons in my 2005 The Google Legacy and my 2007 Google Version 2.0. You can’t catch up when you try to shoot a duck where it came from. You have to shoot where the duck is going. Microsoft is in catch up mode, but the Google is charging forward. Right now, the lead is measured in years, and unless Google falls on its own sword, Microsoft is running out of time to draw even with the GOOG in three races: brand, technology, and ad revenue. Microsoft has to focus to close the gap with Google. I recall that Microsoft is in the applications business, the game business, the server business, the online business, and the mesh business. That’s not focus; that’s why Google is ahead technically with a common engineering base, not a legacy nightmare and a dissimilar aggregation of products and services.

What’s next for Microsoft?

More attempts to whack the online ball for a home run, of course.

Microsoft’s been slugging away like a six-year-old T Ball batter. T Ball is a version of American baseball which allows a young batter to swing until she hits the ball. The ball, instead of being thrown at the batter, is placed on a stand. Nevertheless, T Ball games are interminable. Microsoft’s still at bat as it has been for the last decade. Microsoft even provides a timeline for its T Ball swings here.

What’s the outlook for Microsoft?

Microsoft is, in the lovely Wall Street jargon, a value stock. The company has to take a look at what IBM did to dig itself out of its post-Microsoft debacle. IBM is a hardware company that sells services. Microsoft is going to have to find its own path forward. “Killing Google”, as colorful and dynamic as the phrase sounds to Microsoft lovers, isn’t going to happen unless something drastic afflicts Google. Technically Google owns the next-generation application platform, the new global computing infrastructure, and the global brand for computing. Time for Microsoft to get some different inputs. IBM had to hire a cookie king to get the company back on track. Holders of a value stock may force that type of change at the top. But remember that I live in rural Kentucky, a place where water comes from a creek and has to be carried to the log cabin.

If you want to push back (Fast Search PR, Microsoft PR?), let me hear your view. I’m offering my opinion from the middle of nowhere. I’m willing to learn if you’ve got some facts to slather on my aging thought process.

Stephen Arnold, May 5, 2008

Update, 3 06 pm Eastern

If Yahoo’s stock tanks, will Microsoft buy the company?

Mr. Ballmer can behave in interesting ways. He’s a CEO who vowed to “kill Google” only to have the quote make it into the court transcript in the Kai Fu Lee matter. Microsoft may be able to pick up the pieces if Yahoo’s new buddy Google doesn’t step up to the plate or if the Federal “umpire” makes it tough for Google to assist its Mountain View, California, neighbor. Buying Yahoo at a bargain basement price might be quite appealing to Mr. Ballmer. He could then Microsoft-ify Yahoo, leaving Mr. Yang and Ms. Dekker working hard to regain their former, somewhat fleeting glory. I also think it is appealing to let Yahoo roll ever faster toward lower revenues and earnings. With Yahoo out of the way, Microsoft is in a somewhat stronger position to turn its attention to the canny Googzilla, a company that has outwitted Microsoft consistently for about a decade.


One Response to “The Microsoft Yahoo Fiasco: Impact on SharePoint and Web Search”

  1. X1 Technologies Dives into the SharePoint Search Channel : Beyond Search on May 29th, 2008 4:37 am

    […] written about these in the first three editions of the Enterprise Search Report and in this Web log here, so there’s not much incentive for me to rehash my troubles with MOSS and ESS. (One vendor […]

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