Rebooting the Web leaderboard

Microsoft/Yahoo would top Google in many areas, but not all

A combined Microsoft/Yahoo would dramatically change the Web landscape, with the new entity taking the lead or increasing its lead in many categories. However, the company would still rank far behind Google in some key areas.

This month, Microsoft made a public bid of $44.6 billion for Yahoo, a portal that has seen its profile dip precariously during the past few years. At that time, Microsoft executives would not detail how this could affect the company's MSN Internet division, but the group certainly would see gains from Yahoo's unique audience, which still numbers more than 100 million and leads the field in several categories.

According to Nielsen Online, Microsoft/Yahoo would be the largest Web parent company if the deal goes through. Although there is overlap between the two audiences, the new company would have had 237 million visitors for the month — nearly double Google's 125 million.

Worldwide, Microsoft/Yahoo would have had 665 million visitors in December, comScore said, compared with Google's 558 million.

However, the new company would still be a distant second to Google in search. In December, Yahoo and MSN/Windows Live combined for 32% market share, compared with Google's 56%.

International numbers show an even greater discrepancy in this area. According to comScore, Google's worldwide search share of 62% in December dwarfs Microsoft/Yahoo, which would have a share of about 16%.

Google also would still dominate the online video category with its YouTube and Google Video properties. For December, YouTube, which continues to grow, had 69 million visitors and Google Video had 11 million. A combination of the Video and Movies divisions of Yahoo and MSN had 39 million visitors.

In other categories, though, the new company would be the clear leader.

A combined Yahoo TV and MSN TV would have been the most-visited broadcast media site for December, with 17 million visitors to NBC Universal's 15.3 million.

The battle for top news and sports sites also would be decided in favor of the new company as Yahoo would pad its lead in both categories. A combined Yahoo Sports and Fox Sports on MSN and Yahoo News and MSNBC Digital Network would have about double the audience of ESPN and CNN, respectively.

Yahoo Music also would increase its lead as the top music site, a position it held in December. The site, which would have double the number of visitors to AOL Music, also would benefit from the integration of Rhapsody, which Yahoo said last week would handle the paid part of its music site.

The combined entity's greatest asset, and the one that might cause the most regulatory scrutiny, could be the commanding lead it would have in e-mail and instant messaging. A Hitwise report said that Yahoo/Microsoft e-mail sites, which are the top two in the category, accounted for more than 80% of the market share in late January, compared with just 6% for Google's Gmail, the companies' closest competitor.

Nielsen Online is owned by the Nielsen Co., parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.