Yahoo Launches Search Direct, Pitches Real-Time Info

Shashi-Seth

Yahoo furthered its search efforts Wednesday, launching Search Direct to deliver answers and direct access to results before queries get completed. Those who believe Yahoo left the search market when Microsoft Bing began powering back-end functions and paid-search ads may have to reconsider.

The beta version highlighting the next generation of search combines content and structured data to provide a fast search experience similar to Google Instant, which was launched last year. Unlike Google Instant, Yahoo Search Direct brings in maps, photos, advertising, and more -- not just queries on Web sites, but trending topics and latest news at the moment the searcher puts the cursor into the keyword search box.

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While Microsoft Bing supports the algorithmic back-end search feature and paid-search campaigns through adCenter, Yahoo continues to give searchers and advertisers a unique experience. Type "Huntington Beach" in the search query box and this brings up results in the listings that offer top-rated things to do, as well as information on hotels, restaurants, and flights.

It has not been determined whether the revenue from the brand's ads sold in results will be shared with Microsoft, according to Shashi Seth, Yahoo's senior vice president of search. He defines the Search Direct technology as a real-time index updating every five minutes. The data grid works across the properties, and as each are refreshed the data climbs on the grid to serve up real-time information.

Reversing search technology leads to recommendations and discovery, helping people locate information on the first page. In 2005, 16% of people never clicked on the second page of a search result. This has dropped to 10% today, according to Seth. "Finding information embedded in pages versus giving you the information are two very different things," he said.

Seth argued that one says "I'll walk you through the library, and it's up to you to find the book," while the other says, "not only will I give you the book, but I'll open the exact page and give you the exact paragraph where you can find the information."

Yahoo Search Direct will roll out on select U.S. Yahoo sites in the coming month, followed by international markets and mobile devices later this year. It can return between 30 and 50 queries within seconds. Search Direct will add real-time results from Twitter and Facebook in the future, but not in the initial rollout.

The index is "significantly smaller" today, because Yahoo is only using a "smidgen" of data, Seth says. Yahoo has plans to allow other publishers to add content.

In the developer's blog, Yahoo's Kartik Ramakrishnan details the back-end infrastructure and the challenges to building the product.

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