Yahoo! just got a major shot in the arm after Firefox made the struggling search company its default search engine as part of a blockbuster search contract.

The new five-year deal between the Mozilla Foundation and Yahoo! covers both mobile and desktop search and includes a big facelift for Yahoo!

That new look is designed to bring Yahoo! into the 21st Century with a clean, decidedly less cluttered, look than what most of us expect from the venerable search engine. According to a blog post from Mozilla CEO Chris Beard, Firefox engineers were brought in to help to Yahoo! keep the new look in line with Firefox expectations.

What About Google?

The biggest question raised by the Yahoo!/Firefox connection is why the company ditched its existing deal Google?

Not only has Mozilla’s relationship with the biggest search engine on the planet been long lasting, it’s been very lucrative. In recent years, that partnership has accounted for as much as 88% of Mozilla’s annual revenue.

The two most popular theories regarding the Mozilla/Google breakup are that Google just didn’t want to continue the partnership; or that Yahoo! presented the foundation with a deal that was just too good to pass up.

If you’re looking for clues from Beard’s statement on the matter, you won’t find much. He said simply:

Google has been the Firefox global search default since 2004. Our agreement came up for renewal this year, and we took this as an opportunity to review our competitive strategy and explore our options.

Despite their endless oceans of cash, Google’s brain trust may have decided that paying Firefox anything wasn’t really worth it in the long run.

After all, Firefox only accounts for about 15% of the total browser market and most end-users with a preference reset the default search engine anyways.

Who’s the Real Winner?

The real winner in this deal could wind up being none other than that other venerable name from the Internet’s past, Microsoft. Since Yahoo! contracts with Bing for its search services, the number two search engine could wind up seeing a big boost in ad revenue as a result of the deal.

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