Who's best to catch Google?

Microsoft’s $44.6bn swoop for Yahoo has got every analyst speculating the future of search and online advertising. All theories essentially start and end at who can catch Google, the friend and foe of small business.Google dominates two thirds of global search. It also controls 70% of search advertising, which accounts for 45% of all online advertising. With 13.1% of search, Yahoo is its nearest competitor by almost 10%.With 90% of all web traffic coming through search, Google effectively controls the internet and online advertising – especially if its bid for DoubleClick gets the OK. Certainly, it can no longer claim to be the David to Microsoft’s Goliath.But that’s why we’ve loved it.Google created a global audience and provided the smallest businesses with a way of reaching it on a pay-per-click (ppc) basis for a matter of pence. Google Adwords has helped thousands of businesses get off the ground that otherwise wouldn’t have.But note the past tense in loved. There have been murmurings of discontent at the increasingly spiralling costs for exposure. Long tail is all very well but there are only so many ways you can differentiate in 100 characters and still make page one of 'florist+flowers+delivery+leeds'.Supposing a deal is sanctioned and Microo! / Yahsoft (or whatever they decide to call it) does prove a genuine competitor to Google, then surely business can only benefit? After all, competition should always breed choice and value.I guess the real issue is, are we looking for short or long-term competition? Microsoft subsuming Yahoo would establish a clear No.2 but also make an already seemingly insurmountable challenge impossible for smaller emerging challengers to Google’s hold.With time would a two-horse race offer much more value than a monopoly? Should we hope, like Yahoo’s shareholders, for one of the other players to mount a rival bid and throw the race wide open? What do you think?

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