Yahoo's Ambitious Plan To Change Search


Yahoo previewed features and functions Thursday scheduled for release this fall across its network of sites. During a product demonstration at its headquarters, the Sunnyvale, Calif. technology company focused on search, news and entertainment running on a variety of devices, including Apple's iPad.

The new design gives Twitter a place on Yahoo, and lets users import Facebook contents into Yahoo Mail. Those who find content on the Yahoo site will have an option to share it via their Twitter feed. Yahoo's network of sites will integrate social, rather than try to reinvent the social network.

Rolling out on the search engine, an accordion design will allow Yahoo searchers to query broad keyword terms and expand or contract the results by clicking on a link. The tabs will serve up Twitter tweets, videos, events and more. The goal to reduce the footprint on the search page aims to give searchers answers as quickly as possible, according to Shashi Seth, Yahoo's senior vice president of search products.

Fending questions related to handing off search and paid-search advertising to Microsoft Bing, Seth says it allows Yahoo engineers to shift the focus from traditional back-end stuff like crawl and index for relevance in search results to what he calls "the next generation of search."

It's not about cosmetic changes to the way Yahoo Search looks. In the next three years, search will not look similar to how it appears today, Seth says. In fact, he would argue the product three years from now will completely change the landscape for search and content.

Yahoo has been gaining U.S. search market share. August search market share numbers from comScore out late Wednesday reveal gains for the second consecutive month -- increasing to 21%, up from 20%, sequentially. Yahoo is trying to take the science and technology that it once applied to the back end and bring it to the forefront, rethinking search entirely. Today's sneak peek provides the first step in that direction.

When asked what Yahoo will look like in three years, Yahoo's Chief Product Officer Blake Irving told attendees "a global series of Web experiences across a variety of devices that gives people what they want." That means connecting people with content, as well as giving advertisers the ability to personalize and target ads.

Accomplishing that means taking advantage of signals from user-generated content that provides insight into the way people think, yet retaining awareness of privacy issues and what people want to share. This method to target ads more precisely becomes one of several new functions built into modules that Yahoo can "plop" into a variety of places across its network of sites. The technology allows Yahoo to customize the experience for each person who searches on the site.

Cloud computing also will help Yahoo manage the network traffic and Yahoo Mail, which will help deliver an even faster experience. Yahoo pledged the release of a faster and better mail experience. Irving says Yahoo Mail will become twice as fast and easier to navigate after engineers tweak the architecture, user interface and back-end. Yahoo Mail's architectural changes aim to provide better SMS and creation of folders, offering unlimited storage and up to 25-Mbyte attachments.


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