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Kingmaker? How Yahoo! Might Play with Facebook and Microsoft in Search

Another possibility, if Yahoo! backed out of the deal with Microsoft and wasn't allowed to partner with Google, is that they go-it-alone, but partner with someone like Apple, Facebook, or even Amazon (AMZN) who might be looking to beef up their search.

The problem with this is that it's still a long, tough road.

Another permutation might have been revealed through today's Facebook-Microsoft announcement. If Yahoo did decide to re-up with Bing in March, perhaps the best approach would be for Microsoft to outsource Bing to Yahoo! and for Yahoo! and Facebook to work closely on search -Yahoo! on the traditional Web side and Facebook on the Graph Search side. Maybe all three parties see this leading to better results than just continuing on with the status quo.

However, there would be a lot of cooks in this search kitchen. They'd all have to come to some sort of agreement on how to work together. That's always tough with multiple parties.

One thing is clear after today though: Search makes a lot of money for these big Web companies or it's a critical product moving forward in the mobile space, even for companies like Apple that make money from selling products instead of advertising. Yahoo! is in a unique position as a potential partner to all the big players.

In roughly 10 weeks, we should hear about a major strategic decision from Yahoo! about who they will get closer to in the future. This could cause big waves to everyone in the space.

At the time of publication the author was long YHOO and AAPL.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Eric Jackson is founder and Managing Member of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. In January 2007, Jackson started the world's first Internet-based campaign to increase shareholder value at Yahoo!, leading to a change in CEOs in 2007. He also spoke out in favor of Yahoo!'s accepting Microsoft's buyout offer in 2008. Global Proxy Watch named Jackson as one of its 10 "Stars" who positively influenced international corporate governance and shareowner value in 2007.

Prior to founding Ironfire Capital, Jackson was President and CEO of Jackson Leadership Systems, Inc., a leadership, strategy, and governance consulting firm. He completed his Ph.D. in the Management Department at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York, with a specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Governance, and holds a B.A. from McGill University.

He was previously Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at VoiceGenie Technologies, a software firm now owned by Alcatel-Lucent. In 2004, Jackson founded the Young Patrons' Circle at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which is now the second-largest social and philanthropic group of its kind in North America, raising $500,000 annually for the museum. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson.

You can contact Eric by emailing him at eric.jackson@thestreet.com.

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