Editorial: How will adland respond to search tie-up? It won't

For all the talk about the Yahoo!-Microsoft deal restoring competition to the search market, it's hard to escape the feeling that this initiative is like battling Google with a peashooter.

The notion that the combination of the world's second- and third-largest search engines can emerge as a genuine competitive alternative to the number one is fuelled more by hope than expectation. Nor are investors much impressed. Share prices of both Yahoo! and Microsoft tumbled after the announcement.

Google's stranglehold on major markets is exceedingly tight. In the UK, it's almost total with new research showing it had a 90.6 per cent share of the search market in June compared with Yahoo!'s 3.9 per cent and Microsoft Bing's 2.4 per cent. With consumers' addiction to Google overwhelming, those percentages are unlikely to change soon.

As a result, pragmatism will prevail among agencies and clients. Much as they might wish to encourage other search engines, the fact is that these can't provide enough volume when ambitious sales and traffic targets need to be hit. Using Google, one top agency manager says, is a no-brainer.

The best that can be hoped is that Yahoo! and Microsoft have ushered in a future in which the search market will be better balanced. After all, this is a market that's changed beyond recognition during the past five years. Who is to say that won't happen again? Particularly if regulators put Google's near monopoly position under closer scrutiny.

In the short term, however, there doesn't seem much prospect of the status quo being altered. Not least because of the time it will take for Microsoft and Yahoo! to get their act together. Regulatory approval will not be sought until early next year with implementation taking place over the next two years.

Meanwhile, there's new systems and processes to be tested and bedded in. And it's a pound to a penny that Google will use the interval to build its fortifications even higher.

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