The deal, which would make Yahoo a more credible competitor to Google, is likely to be announced this week, and seems likely to be based on a revenue share, not on a big fat check upfront, as some at Yahoo had hoped.
Yahoo's request for an upfront payment (it is said to have asked for several hundred million), in addition to revenue guarantees that would amount to billions over the course of the deal, caused a breakdown last week in the on-again-off-again talks. But they were revived late on Thursday, according to executives with knowledge of the situation.
Execs in Redmond never conceived of the deal as an upfront purchase of Yahoo's search traffic but as a deal in which Yahoo would be compensated from a share of revenue from the sale of search ads. Yahoo would be allowed to sell search ads on Bing.com as well as its own site, giving it more search inventory to sell and making it a bigger player in the search sales front. It would also immediately be able to save millions by not having to maintain its own search infrastructure.
The latest terms of the deal underscore Microsoft's devotion to developing and owning technology vs. selling media. The deal won't make it a bigger seller of online advertising but it would allow it to eliminate a search-technology competitor in Yahoo and consolidate roughly 30% of the search marketplace on its own platform -- a large enough share, CEO Steve Ballmer seems to believe, to dent Google's dominance.