Kara Swisher

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Googzilla! Yahoo Japan Confirms Google Switch From Yahoo for Both Paid and Algo Search

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

As BoomTown reported earlier today, Yahoo Japan confirmed it would switch its search technology and paid search provider to Google from Yahoo.

The move is a definite blow to Yahoo’s new search and advertising alliance with Microsoft (MSFT), although Yahoo (YHOO) sought to minimize the damage in a statement (which you can read below in its entirety).

But make no mistake, given the huge Japanese market: It’s Googzilla totally wiping the floor with MicroHooSoftra.

While it might seem unusual that Yahoo Japan will be using Google’s search, the company is not actually owned by Yahoo, which holds a 35 percent stake.

SoftBank Corp., the giant Japan-based Internet service provider and cell phone provider, has a stake of around 40 percent in Yahoo Japan.

Both SoftBank Founder Masayoshi Son–one of the first key investors in Yahoo–and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang sit on the board of Yahoo Japan, which is operated independently as a separate publicly traded company run by President and CEO Masahiro Inoue.

Now that Yahoo Japan and Google (GOOG) have announced their engagement–in a statement at the time of Yahoo Japan’s first-quarter earnings announcement–it is certain that Microsoft will move to stop deal from gaining regulatory approval in Japan, even though a Google spokesman told BoomTown it had already consulted the proper authorities in Japan and had gotten no objections.

Still, I would not expect Microsoft to settle for that, and it is likely to do some lobbying
much as it did successfully when Google tried to enter into a similar deal with Yahoo itself in the U.S. in 2008.

That deal failed after government opposition to the creation of a near-monopoly in search in the U.S. became clear.

In Japan the combination is even worse, with the pair controlling almost the entire market share of search there, both paid and algorithmic.

In search query volume, according to one recent report, Yahoo Japan currently has just over a 53 percent share of the search market and Google has just over 38 percent.

Other polls differ, but it all spells an overwhelming and definite monopoly when combined.

Coincidentally, Bing just entered the Japan market with its branded search, but it has only a small share there of almost three percent.

The same market share among the big players holds in paid search too, with Yahoo Japan and Google controlling almost the whole thing between them.

Maintaining a modicum of competition in Japan was Yahoo’s to lose. And lose it did.

After Yahoo and Microsoft struck their wide-ranging search and online advertising partnership last year, Yahoo Japan–which now uses Yahoo technology for algorithmic and paid search–was then free to pick whatever search service it wanted.

Most expected it to use Microsoft’s Bing technology, which will be powering Yahoo in the U.S. by the end of the year, as well as in many other countries where Yahoo operates.

But, because Yahoo Japan is its own entity, any such deal needed to be negotiated among the parties, putting Yahoo Japan in play, much as if it were AOL (AOL) or News Corp. (NWS) unit MySpace in the U.S.

Investors are sure to ask what Yahoo management was doing as the Google effort took shape.

Those efforts obviously paid off, despite a declaration by Yahoo Japan’s Inoue in an January interview with a Japanese news organization that he was not impressed with some other Google services, such as its Street View mapping service.

Thus, the fallout from this is likely to be tough on Yahoo and also its nascent search relationship with Microsoft.

Yahoo Japan said the date of the switch was yet to be determined.

Here’s the statement from Yahoo on the changeover:

Yahoo! Japan announced that it has chosen to implement Google as its backend algorithmic search engine and paid search infrastructure. Yahoo! Japan made this decision as an independent and separate publicly traded company, in which Yahoo! holds a 35% equity interest. We amended our agreement with Yahoo! Japan as a result of this decision, and we do not anticipate that this amendment will have a material financial impact on our revenues. We will provide support, as required by our agreement, for the search experience Yahoo! Japan has chosen for its business, and we will continue to partner closely with Yahoo! Japan in other areas including mail, messenger, mobile, our content properties and more.

This decision by Yahoo! Japan does not impact the global rollout and implementation of the Yahoo! search alliance with Microsoft, except in the Japanese market. We remain confident in our transition plans for the search alliance, are driving innovation in the user experience around search on the Yahoo! network, and continue to be committed to our alliance with Microsoft.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald