Google versus Yahoo: Who will win?

In 2009, two monoliths of search will combat in the most public forum of all: the Internet. (If you think the Web is not that public, then you have not visiting the MySpace page of the average teen recently.) I've been covering both companies in my day job as a technology journalist for the past few years. It's been a fun ride, more like a rollercoaster as they soar one week and descend into a pit the next. Next week, I will be visiting Yahoo to take a look at some new projects. It's interesting to note that both companies have similar origins and similar structures. They both started in Stanford dorm rooms (actually, Yahoo started in a campus trailer, according to this history) with the intention of categorizing the Web and making it more searchable. A long time ago, they achieved that goal. Eventually they both expanded into research areas like machine translation (both have large groups dedicated to the task of translation), and both are in Silicon Valley in sprawling campuses. It's easy to dismiss Yahoo after a year of crash and burn. Yet, they are re-emerging as we "speak" with a new CEO, new vitality, and -- most importantly -- a new lease on life. I attended their shareholder meetings (okay, virtually on the Web) and was just amazed at how goofy they seemed. Most of the questions were about Chinese dissidents. I think 2009 will be different. In fact, I'm guessing that Google and Yahoo will once again become locked in a war for the soul of the Internet -- especially now that Google has proved to be fallible. Chrome is not a mega-hit like they planned, they have shut down a few projects, rumors abound that the free meals and other amenities on campus will come to an end soon. They are both legitimate companies who want to do more than just provide a search portal. Between Yahoo Mail and Gmail there is no clear winner, and with Jerry Yang out as CEO it looks as though Yahoo now has some momentum. I'll report again next week on what I find out, until then: it will be an interesting year.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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