In another sign of the ongoing changes in online search, Yahoo is testing a search partnership with Google. The search giant confirmed in a statement that "Yahoo is currently testing search results and ads from a number of partners, including Google as one of their options."
A Yahoo spokesperson told us, "As we work to create the absolute best experiences for Yahoo users, from time to time, we run small tests with a variety of partners including search providers. There is nothing further to share at this time."
In April, Yahoo and Microsoft amended their previous search partnership to give increased flexibility to Yahoo. Under the new arrangement, the companies' partnership is non-exclusive for both desktop and mobile searches, meaning Yahoo can explore additional arrangements with search engines beyond Microsoft's Bing.
Yahoo's new search tests with Google first came to light after Aaron Wall, an online marketer and founder of the search engine optimization Web site SEO Book, published a post on his blog Wednesday saying he had noticed different results when searching with Yahoo on different browsers.
"I am uncertain to what degree they are testing search results from Google, but on some Web browsers I am seeing Yahoo organics and ads powered by Bing [and] in other browsers I am seeing Yahoo organics and ads powered by Google," Wall noted.
According to a follow-up post in the New York Times' Bits blog, "Any broad search deal between Yahoo and Google is likely to come under antitrust scrutiny."
Google is already under investigation in Europe for its search practices. Separate antitrust complaints by the European Commission allege that the search giant has "artificially boosted its presence in the comparison shopping market" and that its Android mobile operating system is also anticompetitive.
"If Yahoo gives Google significant share it could create issues where users who switch between the different algorithms might get frustrated by the results being significantly different," Wall said. "Or if users don't care it could prove general Web search is so highly commoditized the average searcher is totally unaware of the changes."
Wall added the latter possibility is more likely, "given most searchers can't even distinguish between search ads and organic search results."
Other Changes in Search Landscape
Yahoo, which is headed by former vice president of Google Product Search Marissa Mayer (pictured), had explored a search ad partnership with Google in 2008. However, the two companies abandoned their agreement after the U.S. Department of Justice informed them the deal would lead to the launch of an antitrust lawsuit.
In November, Mozilla announced a new, five-year partnership making Yahoo the default choice for desktop and mobile searches on its Firefox Web browser in the U.S. That development came shortly after the expiration of Mozilla's 10-year search partnership with Google.
Earlier this week, Microsoft and AOL revealed a new 10-year deal under which AOL will adopt Bing as its exclusive provider of search and search advertising services across all of its properties. That agreement takes effect at the beginning of 2016.