Yahoo Digs Heels Into Search, Unveils Changes For Mail, Messenger, Mobile
Yahoo is testing a new search results page that ties into the design of the new Yahoo home page. The test, available randomly to millions worldwide, delivers a social and targeted search approach that zeros in on specific things, people and Web sites that matter most to the person doing the searching.
That experience adds features that focus on a searching through the clutter on the Web. For example, searching for a person provides direct links down the left column to the person's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and FriendFeed profiles when applicable. Searching on "how to" make a cake or fix a leaky faucet returns results from eHow, wikiHow, and YouTube, which searchers can watch from the search results.
Yahoo also has been adding technology that identifies related concepts, so it understands when the searcher wants to find a Jaguar car vs. animal, says Larry Cornett, Yahoo VP of search products and design.
Although financial numbers were not tossed around during the call, Prabhakar Raghavan, Yahoo SVP of labs and search strategy, told reporters the company has been investing heavily in machine learning, social sciences and microeconomics. Bragging rights are no longer about how many pages search engines can index, but rather the number of objects rendered in a short period of time to help people search and find information faster and more easily, he says.
While Microsoft's Bing will support the back end infrastructure and core algorithm and the development of software that ranks search results, Yahoo maintains control of the consumer experience across the Yahoo network.
Mark Simon, Didit's VP of industry relations, says the changes appear to lay the groundwork for the Microsoft-Yahoo search partnership. Today's announcements seem to indicate that Yahoo wants to raise its search experience, putting it on par with Bing's. "The new refinement tools in particular point in that direction," he says. "Many of these innovations appear designed to help keep users within the Yahoo family of sites. As Yahoo plans to send searchers off to the sites that Bing provides, it needs to ensure that it continues to provide the Yahoo experience that its loyal users most want."
Yahoo also announced a series of updates today for its Mail, Messenger and Mobile. The changes are part of Yahoo's turnaround strategy to better compete with Google.
Among the upgrades, Yahoo Mail will soon allow users to view the most recent e-mails from contacts. Next month, the company launches an Evite application to let people create and send invitations, check on the event status and add events to their Yahoo Calendar from their inbox. Yahoo Messenger now includes video calls, similar to Google's video, an updates tab to bring status updates, recent Flickr uploads, Yahoo Buzz stories, Twitter updates and other content to Messenger users.
Yahoo will also expand the size of Mail's attachment limits for photos and files to 25MB from 10MB. People will have an option to upload and edit photos directly within an email. A new Mail mobile program rolled out for Safari today, and becomes available on more than 400 devices beginning Sept. 1.