Who Powers Whom? Search Providers Chart: January 2004

Many major search engines get their results by turning to third-party “search providers” to “power” their listings. To make matters more confusing, these search providers may run their own search engine sites, as well.

The chart below explains who the major providers are. Knowing who powers whom is helpful for those who are wondering which companies are “winning” in the competitive market of powering search. Information is for users visiting the US/global version of the search engines listed, unless otherwise noted.

This information is also helpful to webmasters and search engine marketers trying to understand where to get listed. If this is your goal, also read the Search Engine Results Chart. That table is more oriented for those looking to get listed with different search engines. It shows all the major search engines and how they get their listings, with links leading to submission help from Search Engine Watch’s Essentials Of Search Engine Submission guide.

The key for the chart is shown first, then the chart itself comes further below, so there’s enough width to display it properly. To learn more about a particular search engine or search provider, just click on its name. You’ll be taken to the appropriate section of Search Engine Watch’s Major Search Engines page. To jump straight to the chart, click here.

Search Engine Watch members can see partnership charts
going back to March 1996. They also have access to pages
about many of the individual search engines listed,
explaining in depth how they work and get listings.

Click here to learn more about becoming a member

Chart Key

Search Providers: These are listed at the top of each column. Read down to see what they power at major search engines. Click on their names to learn more about them.

Search Engines: These are listed at the beginning of each row, in order of share of searches shown on the comScore Media Metrix Search Engine Ratings page. Here’s a guide to the color coding:

  • Dark Orange: search engines with 15 percent or greater share.
  • Light Orange: search engines with 2 percent or greater share.
  • Light Blue: search engines with 1 percent share or greater share.
  • Gray: search engines with less than 0.2 percent share. They are shown only because of the name recognition they may have among serious searchers.

Main: Indicates that a search provider provides the “main” editorial results to a particular search engine, the most dominant listings that will be seen.

Paid: Indicates that a search provider provides paid placement listings to a particular search engine. Also see the Buying Your Way In page for detailed information about paid listing partnerships.

Backup: Indicates that a search provider provides the “backup” results that appear in cases where a search engine’s main results fail to find good matches. See the Search Engine Results Page for more about “backup” or “fallthrough” results.

Option: Indicates that information from this source is made available either on results pages or in other ways, though the prominence of the information may not be high.

Dates: Where shown, dates indicate when a particular partnership is due for renewal. Dates are shown in MM/DD/YY or similar format.

Who Powers Whom? Chart

Search Engine
(Read Down)
Open Directory
Google Main & Paid Option
Yahoo Main
(est. 10/04)
Paid (Overture)
Main from Inktomi likely by 4/04
(Owns Open Directory)
Main & Paid
(est. 10/05+)
MSN Main
(Inktomi: 12/05)
(Overture: 6/05)
Ask Jeeves
(Main from Teoma, owned by Ask)
(owned by Yahoo)
Paid (Overture)
Backup (Inktomi)
(owned by Yahoo)
Main (AltaVista)
Paid (Overture)
(Main from LookSmart)
(see note)
(ATW: 12/31/03)
(owned by Yahoo)
Main (ATW)
Paid (Overture)
(see note)
(ATW: 12/03)
Main & Paid
(est. 10/05+)
(Main from Teoma itself & owned by Ask Jeeves)
(Sept 05)
LookSmart LookSmart provides its own Main & Paid results


AOL renewed its deal with Google in October 2003 but did not specify exactly how long the partnership would last. Date shown is the minimum length estimated by Search Engine Watch, based on past deals between the two companies.

Inktomi listings to begin on MSN Search as main results as of mid-January 2004. Inktomi is owned by Yahoo. Formerly, LookSmart provided the main results.

Lycos has an existing contract with Overture for paid results running through May 2006. However, the company switched to Google in November 2003 due to a contract dispute. Google paid results also appear on Lycos-owned HotBot.com. For more, see coverage on the dispute from InternetNews.com, News.com and CBS MarketWatch. Lycos also runs its own paid listings in addition to those from Google on Lycos and HotBot. See Terra Lycos To Launch Paid Placement Network for more about this.

Yahoo renewed its deal with Google in October 2002 but did not specify exactly how long the agreement would last. Date shown is the minimum length estimated by Search Engine Watch, based on past deals between the two companies. It’s likely the use of Google’s results at Yahoo will end earlier than this, due to Yahoo’s impending implementation of the Inktomi crawler that it owns.

Yahoo, as a search provider, has a number of brands: Overture is its paid placement listings service. Any note of “Paid” on the chart above indicates paid placement listings that come from Overture. Yahoo also currently operates three different crawler services: Inktomi, AltaVista and AllTheWeb. The exact crawler used at different search engines is noted on the chart. Eventually, these are all expected to be merged into a single crawler.

Related reading

Simple Share Buttons