Microsoft has traded its exclusive deal to plaster Facebook with banner advertising for the right to pump Google-style contextual search ads on the profit-lite website.
The switcheroo was tossed into yesterday's attempt by Steve Ballmer to convince analysts that he's still the world's top chair-flinging sweaty software kingpin in the wake of the Yahoo! bid debacle.
Boydroid CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims that he isn't interested in making money and that his once-buzzy firm is focused on "adding value" for users. The truth however is that Facebook needs to demonstrate to its real customers and chiefs - advertisers and venture capitalists - that it is anything more valuable than a complicated web spam generator. Especially after the world was shocked - shocked! - to discover the site isn't really worth $15bn.
By unshackling itself from running naff Microsoft-supplied ads it hopes to build up its own infrastructure for targeting banners based on the social information users gaily hand over.
In return, Redmond will get to replace Facebook's own search effort with a Live Search box, which will allow users to scour the web without leaving the social network. It's another attempt to railroad people into using Live Search almost by default, to run alongside paying PC manufacturers and surfers.
We're not sure what's sadder: Microsoft trying to convince Wall Street it's relevant to the web search business by inserting a form field into Facebook, or Facebook having sold out potentially valuable web searches to the one corporation in the game that can't make money at it. ®