Yahoo on Thursday unveils a browser with search functions dubbed Axis for tablet, smartphone and desktop devices. The browsers will eventually support a combination of paid-search and display ads, along with cross-platform ad targeting and search functions.
Search history and preferences will play a major role. Consumers will sign in to the browser under any account, such as Google, Yahoo or Facebook. The cross-device feature relies on the account ID to allow users to search from desktop to tablet to smartphone. When the company launches ad targeting through the browsers, the ID will serve as a method to retarget advertisements. Bookmarks are also available across platforms.
For the tablet, Yahoo has created tabs, with screenshots of pages for the browser that allows searchers to see the content before clicking through to the page. The browser also makes pages shareable through email, Pinterest and Twitter. The desktop search platform will rely on a plug-in for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari.
"We developed mobile devices as full browsers because the strategy shifted to tablets and phones first, and then we will optimize for the desktop later," said Ethan Batraski, director of product management at Yahoo Search.
The visual results pull from indexes built by Yahoo. The browser launches ad-free to focus on building on consumer adoption. Yahoo also will need to determine the best way to integrate text-based images and videos as ads. For example, the browsers might use a brand's landing page rather than text results. Yahoo and Bing have a joint partnership for display ads, as well as search.
"Think about the richness of display with the technology of search retargeting," Batraski said.
Do search engine optimization professionals need to think about SEO differently? Batraski said they don't. "We're still utilizing the basics of SEO, but we're adding a layer of social feedback on top, so we know where you clicked."
Yahoo will rely on Microsoft Bing's algorithmic results as a base, but monitor where users click, and then add another algorithm on top to re-rank results in real-time based on the data.
While Axis is the first Yahoo browser built from scratch, the company distributes about 80 million browsers yearly by packaging Firefox and IE with toolbars. Batraski believes it can build a distribution channel through its network of sites.
A survey suggests the market for this search browser will begin with men 18-35 living in urban areas who own a desktop, smartphone and tablet. While Batraski believes social media and word of mouth will create adoption, IDC Analyst Karsten Weide doesn't believe that's enough to make a dent in market share. He said Yahoo needs a partner -- similar to the way Nokia hooked up with Microsoft -- agreeing to make Bing the default engine on its phones.