Someone, somewhere is going to write a great business book about the search engine wars of 2003 however, their publishers will likely send it back for a rewrite because business books are not supposed to be more interesting and action packed than a Tom Clancy spy thriller. For a recap of previous events (and if you haven’t been keeping up, you’ll need it), please visit the StepForth search engine news site and check our back issues. By 2004, the search engine world will look very different than it does today, starting with Yahoo.

Yahoo purchased one of the largest search databases, Inktomi, earlier this year. Inktomi powers HotBot and provides some of the listings for Yahoo’s rival MSN. Currently, Yahoo receives its search engine listings from Google and inserts paid advertisements from another recent acquisition, Overture. Overture and Google are direct competitors in the Pay-Per-Click market and the emerging contextual-focused advertising markets. Yahoo announced today that it will be replacing results generated by Google with results generated by Inktomi on its Australian search engine and other, unnamed regional search tools. This indicates a significant change as Yahoo has been displaying Google results for over 18 months.

MSN is also breaking news about how they wish to break Google’s virtual dominance of the search engine market. In an announcement that will have massive financial impacts on Overture and LookSmart, MSN stated that it is advancing the release date of its new search engine from the autumn of 2004 to the spring of 2004. This move will hurt Overture’s bottom line and could cripple LookSmart as both search tools rely heavily on revenue from providing both paid and “free” listings to MSN. Over 25% of Overture’s annual revenues come from MSN. LookSmart depends on MSN for almost 50% of its annual revenues. For Google, the advance of the release date means they must work much harder to win back the waning faith of the professional internet community before Microsoft either earns or co-opts it from them. Google has started to receive unfavorable press, most notably in Monday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal as the mainstream (non-IT) community starts to notice how inconsistent Google’s results have been over the past few months. In Monday’s article, the WSJ noted a loss of confidence in Google from the SEO community and touted new comer TEOMA as their new search engine of choice.

At this week’s Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose CA, Search Engine Watch editor, Danny Sullivan, noted that the search engine world will be radically different next year. Last year’s search engine business buzzwords were “relevancy”, “personalization”, and “strong site content”. This year, words such as “consolidation”, “merger”, “back-room dealing”, and “winner-take-all”, are the keywords which best describe the industry.