This seems related to the "Think Big" contest, which means they are obviously very serious about this.
I find it curious, though, that webmasterworlders are reacting with surprising disinterest to this clear attempt at migration to banner ads.
Is it because they don't really see this going anywhere?
Google and Yahoo are making a big play for branding dollars and if this were to work out in a big way, it would be painful for independent, small business brands.
After all, we succeed on our ability to provide a service, not to grab mindshare, something which requires a significant investment even in the tiniest of niches because the minds of potential customers are already cluttered by the large brands.
But, at the same time, I think search engines succeed on their ability to provide very relevant content. If they're cluttering above the fold with results which are not directly relevant to their searches I can only imagine the user experience will suffer and people will migrate elsewhere.
After all, isn't that how Google won in the first place? Clean, simple superior search interface?
Or are we seeing a search cartel develop here between Google, MSN, Yahoo with a complicit agreement amongst them to create an equally painful user experience so that searchers will have no choice but to sit and be brainwashed by the big brands? And as a cartel they can make huge inroads into brand marketing?
What do people think? Shouldn't we have strong opinions on this? After all this is pretty relevant, because for all the serp grubbing people do, in the end it is what is above the fold that matters.