All Things D: The Search Edition
There’s a ton of search-related news and intrigue coming out of the Dow Jones “All Things D” conference in Southern California. Let’s start with the ridiculous remark from IAC’s chief Barry Diller that “Google is irrelevant to us.” That’s only true if Diller doesn’t care about search revenue. Google is essentially the source of that revenue for IAC.
He also reportedly said, “I believe our product is in most respects better than Google,” and that he thinks Google’s dominance cannot last indefinitely in search: “At some point Google will not live ever after with 60 or 90 percent of market.”
Ask 3D was certainly more daring in most respects than Google’s Universal Search, but arguably the core relevance of search results on Ask doesn’t match Google. Diller’s statement about Google not being dominant forever is a kind of bland truism about all market leaders.
On to Yahoo and Microsoft. On the All Things D blog itself there’s a fairly extensive summary of Walter Mossberg’s interview with Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and President Sue Decker. Mossberg was very pointed in his questions about Yahoo’s strategy, its potential relationship with Google, and the failed Microsoft merger. It appears to have been a frank discussion with no new revelations about strategy.
Yang compares the failed Microsoft bid to the breakup of a high-school romance: “It’s like when you break up with your girlfriend in high school. It very quickly becomes he-said/she-said. I don’t want to look back. But I think we both understand that there is a tremendous amount of power in a combination like the one Microsoft proposed.”
Yang also says, “I’m the best person to run Yahoo.” He and Decker also apparently make lots of general statements and claims about exciting future plans and products, but with few specifics other than what’s already been announced elsewhere.
Yang apparently played golf with Steve Ballmer (his ex-girlfriend?) over the weekend, according to the Wall Street Journal, but no deal emerged. The full buyout is off the table and what they apparently discussed is Microsoft’s current interest in acquiring the search/search advertising business.
News Corp. Chairman (and owner of All Things D parent Dow Jones) Rupert Murdoch was also in the hot seat at the conference (coverage also on Barrons). He said that he was impressed that Yahoo held off Microsoft’s charge but also expressed that he doesn’t see the company succeeding in search or appeasing shareholders with a Google deal. He also dismissed the Carl Icahn proxy challenge to Yahoo’s board, saying that it “wasn’t serious.” As a practical matter, Microsoft’s abandonment of its takeover quest for Yahoo appears to thwart Icahn’s ultimate ambition to restart the merger discussions.
The Murdoch interview appears to have been the most interesting and candid and also the most free-ranging. It ran the gamut from the state of the US newspaper industry to online social networking, video distribution, search, and the US presidential election (the traditional conservative Murdoch appears to be leaning toward Obama).
All Things D’s Kara Swisher asked, “How do you look at Google right now?” Murdoch responds, “We love them . . . We think they’re fantastic, the greatest company in America. But you don’t want anyone to be a monopoly.”
Finally, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and new (ex-Googler) COO Sheryl Sandberg took the stage to discuss the state of all things Facebook (summarized by Barrons). Facebook has been poaching a steady stream of Google employees and has become something of a “second front” for Google, with Microsoft being the primary one. Yet, Zuckerberg’s tone was conciliatory: “I’d like to work with them on something.”
Hmmm . . . “something.”
For her part, Sandberg had nice things to say about Microsoft. Barron’s paraphrases her: coming from Google, you don’t spend a lot of time at Microsoft; it’s a good partnership; it will continue to be important. Most of the discussion about Facebook’s business model and future advertising plans was about brand/display and trying to further innovate in those areas following the Beacon debacle.
It remains a mystery, however, that the company doesn’t implement web search and related monetization on its site (see Microsoft’s Facebook Ad Deal Doesn’t Include Search). Perhaps that was the “something” that Zuckerberg was alluding to with Google. We’ll see.