Yahoo dumps Google to use Inktomi search engine

Internet media company Yahoo Inc. on Wednesday said it was switching to its own Web search technology and dropping its use of competitor Google Inc.

The widely anticipated announcement marks the unwinding of a long-term relationship between Yahoo, operator of the world’s most-visited Internet properties, and Google, the No. 1 Web search provider.

The friendly partnership evolved into an intense rivalry as Google’s popularity soared and Web-search advertising revenues, which had been shared between the two companies, boomed.

Google is expected to go public later this year. Company representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Yahoo recently has made major investments in the sector with acquisitions of search provider Inktomi and Overture Services, a key Web-search advertising company.

Its conversion project began late Tuesday night with the U.S. Yahoo site and will continue over the next several weeks as the San Jose, California-based company moves its international properties to its own search product.

Upon completion of the transition, Yahoo will power nearly half of all Web search queries in the United States through its own sites and those of partners like Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Internet service, Jeff Weiner, senior vice president of Yahoo search and marketplace, said.

Yahoo’s global reach, combined with its technology, position Yahoo to “change the game in search,” Weiner said.

For its part, Microsoft is also throwing its vast resources behind a project to build search technology of its own.

Yahoo first signalled its intent to challenge Google last year when it bought Inktomi, a company which enjoyed an early technology lead but fell on hard times after the dotcom bust. It had already indicated that it planned to replace Google as the search service used by visitors to the Yahoo portal sometime early this year.

The race to catch Google comes as the internet upstart continues to strengthen its grip on internet searching. Last December, half of all people in the US who used a search engine visited Google at learst once, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a research firm. By contrast, 29 per cent visited Yahoo during the month, while 30 per cent went to Microsoft’s MSN service and 15 per cent visited AOL.

Google’s dominance is even greater than these numbers suggest. Its search engine carried out all the searches on AOL and, until now, Yahoo. Searches on MSN, meanwhile, are powered by Yahoo’s search engine, though that realationship is also expected to end once Microsoft perfects its own technology.

In future, the company plans to use personal information about its users to customise the results of searches to make them more relevant, said Mr Weiner. This personalisation will take advantage of data supplied by the more than 100m people registered to use Yahoo’s various information services. Mr Weiner added that Yahoo would also build in safeguards to protect personal information about its users.

In an effort to compete with Google’s engineering prowess, Yahoo has built its own engineering research group built around Inktomi and two other search engines it acquired, Alta Vista and search. Unlike Google, though, its results still rely to some extent on human intervention, using the team of editors that created the first internet directory on which Yahoo’s original business was built.