Yahoo! / Mozilla search partnership: What’s Marissa Mayer up to?

Yesterday Yahoo! and Mozilla announced a new 5 year partnership to make “Yahoo the default search experience for Firefox in the United States on mobile and desktop”. The deal will make Yahoo! the default search experience on Firefox in the United States, replacing Google. Google and others (including Bing) will still be available as alternate choices, and Firefox will use various other search products around the globe, including Yandex in Russia, Baidu in China, and Google (yes, Google) in Europe.

Yahoo! press release does a lot to champion Mozilla’s newfound relationship with Yahoo!, and the possibilities for future innovations. What the press release doesn’t do is even mention Bing or Microsoft. In fact, quoted in the press release, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer says:

“At Yahoo, we believe deeply in search – it’s an area of investment, opportunity and growth for us. This partnership helps to expand our reach in search and also gives us an opportunity to work closely with Mozilla to find ways to innovate more broadly in search, communications, and digital content.”

Mayer, who came to Yahoo! after Microsoft CEO forged the Yahoo! / Bing search alliance with former Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz, and she’s made it clear that she’s not a fan of the 10 year deal. Earlier this year, in a post at Re/Code that laid out Mayer’s plans for Yahoo!, known as the “Three S’s” internally: Stream, Shopping, and Search. It’s pretty apparent that Mayer has big plans for search, and a low opinion of the Bing search alliance. From the Re/Code post, quoting a Yahoo! insider:

“The minute Marissa finds a way out of that deal without committing suicide, she will. She hates it.”

There’s nothing in the new Mozilla announcement to give you the idea that things are any different, or that Mayer is continuing to fight for ways to end the Yahoo! Bing search alliance. In the Mozilla press release, in fact, it’s revealed that Yahoo! will be building a new search experience specifically for Firefox users in the US:

The deal represents the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years. As part of this partnership, Yahoo will introduce an enhanced search experience for U.S. Firefox users which is scheduled to launch in December 2014. It features a clean, modern and immersive design that reflects input from the Mozilla team.

And while there’s nothing concrete to suggest that Yahoo! has found a way out of the Microsoft deal, Mayer is clearly setting Yahoo! up for life after Bing. On Microsoft’s part, the search alliance may be of somewhat less importance to the company now that Bing is being built in to Windows in a deeply integrated way. Microsoft may have gotten what it needed out of the deal: a leg up and a quick boost in search market share, giving it time to revamp its strategy on search and what it means to Microsoft and especially to Windows.

Can Marissa Mayer wriggle out of the Yahoo! Bing search alliance? Will it help save her job? Does Microsoft even need the search alliance anymore? What do you think?