Last weekend I made substantial additions to a Web site for my wife's non-profit project, www.TapestryOfTheCommons.org. A lesser version of the site had been up for months. My wife complained today that the site did not come up on Google. I assured her that since there were links from other sites into her site, Google would have picked it up, but maybe not prioritized it yet. I was wrong.
At Yahoo search "tapestry of the commons" came up 3rd in the results. At MSN search the site came up number 1. Google truly did not list the site at all. Since I have an account at Google (for AdSense and this blog site) I was able to submit my wife's site. But I should not have needed to.
So I don't think the search wars are over. Like many people I tried Google early on, based on word of mouth. I was mostly using Yahoo and AltaVista to do my searching. Google, back then, was free from annoying ads. That, I guess, was the cost of entry. Yet more often than not Google gave better results; it is still my first line search engine.
But to my taste Yahoo gives better results for shopping and for investment related searches. I have gotten some good results from Ask.com when Yahoo and Google failed me. Now that Microsoft showed me it can be number 1 in results I want, I'm going to try it more.
What does this mean for investors? Some caution and hedging of bets seems smart. I own Microsoft stock based on its ability to sell operating systems, Visual Studio (which I use and love), and SQL Server. If its Web search division starts making more money, Microsoft stock will look cheap in retrospect. And if Yahoo or Ask make any gains against Google, the high Google price-to-earnings multiplier will look almost as silly as Year 2000 stock prices based on "Web page hits" rather than on earnings.
Don't get me wrong, Google is a great company. It employs lots of smart people; there is plenty of upside potential in its earnings. Google, so far, has excelled at monetizing Web searches and ads.
See also my summaries of the latest quarterly results and analyst conferences for GOOG, MSFT, and YHOO.