Microsoft Commits to Overture Until 2005

MSN Search will continue to use the partner's paid placement listings.

Microsoft Corp. is extending its search relationship with Overture Services Inc. through June 2005, despite speculation that the two might part ways after Overture was recently acquired by Yahoo Inc.

Overture, of Pasadena, Calif., will continue to provide paid placement search results for MSN Search in the United States and the United Kingdom as part of the deal announced on Friday. The new agreement also allows the two companies to expand the service into additional countries.

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., has been indicating that it is pushing its search in-house, and earlier this month announced plans to drop search partner LookSmart Ltd.s paid-inclusion results. Reports came in June that the company had begun crawling Web sites with its own MSNBot technology and launched a Web site answering questions about the Web crawler.

With Yahoo buying Overture, a deal completed last week, speculation arose that Microsoft might jettison search partners since MSN, its Internet division, competes with Yahoo. When MSN ended its LookSmart deal, MSN officials said that the move wouldnt affect its other search partnerships with Overture and Inktomi, also part of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo.

Overture generates its search listings from more than 100,000 advertisers who bid for placement on keywords relevant to their business. In its third quarter ended June 30, Overtures relationship with MSN and Yahoo accounted for 63 percent of its revenues.

In a statement on Friday, MSN Vice President Christopher Payne said: "Overture has been an important search provider to MSN, offering high-quality search listings to MSN customers and strong opportunities for advertisers."