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Today's rumors of a Microsoft-Yahoo matchup are not surprising. Long ago, with Google gaining more search and online advertising share, the two companies increased cooperation. But a merger could be tough going.

Disclaimer first: Lots of companies talk to each other about lots of things. Negotiations could be about a merger, but as likely-or more-about closer cooperation. Discussion leaks could be a negotiating tactic, and possibly with unrelated objective, by either or both companies.

That said, a combined Microsoft-Yahoo would be a huge entity that would greatly change the online landscape. But the first impact wouldn't be on Google, but everyone else. Microsoft and Yahoo rank second and third in search, according to ComScore and Nielsen/NetRatings. The combined entity would leave a huge gap between the leaders and other search vendors.

The rivalry would likely lead to further search consolidation and less providers for consumers to choose from-assuming many of them would want something other than Google and Live/Yahoo, anyway. Additionally, a merger would shatter some existing alliances, as media companies pick and choose new search and advertising partners. The result could be massive consolidation around a few giants, so that the bulk of Internet advertising would pass through a smaller number of channels, akin to the television networks.

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