Google's share of the Internet search market in the U.S. slipped last month as its closest rival, Yahoo, picked up more traffic, according to the latest figures from the research firm comScore Inc.
But the minor erosion left Google with a huge advantage over both Yahoo and Microsoft, which are preparing to team up in search late this year. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
Google's U.S. market share stood at 65.8 percent in July, down from 66.2 percent in June, comScore said in a report released late Monday. Meanwhile, Yahoo's share climbed to 17.1 percent in July from 16.7 percent in June.
Microsoft's Bing search engine remained unchanged at 11 percent.
Comscore's July figures focused on "explicit" search requests made by people trying to find a piece of information or image on the Internet.
That's a change from the previous three months when comScore's statistics began to include automated searches that sometimes occur at Yahoo and Microsoft when a Web surfer clicks on a photo slideshow or a computer mouse hovers on underlined words in news stories.
ComScore is still including the automated searches in a separate breakdown, but analysts are primarily interested in the figures limited to manual search requests.
That's because a request typed into a search box usually provide the best opportunity to determine what's on a person's mind and show ads tied to those perceived interests. And the search engines get paid when people click on the short text ads next to search results.
Those ads have been key to Google becoming the Internet's most profitable company, with earnings of $3.8 billion on revenue of $13.6 billion during the first half of this year.
In contrast, Yahoo has been stuck in a financial funk for years. Although its overall revenue has edged up so far this year, its search ad revenue is still crumbling. In the first half of the year, it fell 11 percent to $674 million.
Microsoft's search share has been growing since Bing's debut 14 months ago, but the company's online division still lost $2.4 billion in the fiscal year that ended in June.