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August 30, 2004

About That Name...

When this blog launched, several folks asked about the name. They read it as "why search blog?" and wondered why we picked such an odd name.

Well, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. At least in the engineering ranks, there are two ways that we name new products. But this really only applies to internal "products" and code names. Every product name that the world sees on yahoo.com is, of course, scrutinized by our dear friends in Marketing.

Method #1: Be Creative
Pick something you like and find a way to make it apply to whatever it is you are naming. Bonus points if it sounds plausible. An example of this was My Yahoo!. One of the core pieces of technology behind My Yahoo! is known internally as "Idaho."

That's right, Idaho. It has absolutely nothing to do with potatoes either. No, Idaho comes from the B-52's. You see, they had this popular song called "Private Idaho" and My Yahoo! is all about giving each person his or her own personal start page -- their own private Idaho.

There are examples like that all over the company: planets, Star Wars characters, and so on.

Method #2: Be Lazy
Those generally lacking in creative inspiration (in other words, "many of the engineers") have taken to just sticking a "y" on the beginning of something and then declaring it "a Yahoo! thing." Obviously, this requires no brainpower at all and results in a lot of similar sounding names.

I think you can see where the name ysearchblog came from now, can't you? :-)

Jeremy Zawodny
Technical Yahoo!


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August 26, 2004

Livin' la vida Local

So, it’s been three weeks now since our Yahoo! Local beta launched. As Jeff referenced, local search is a key area of focus for us, and holds a lot of promise.

We’ve gotten a ton of comments and suggestions. The overall feedback is quite positive, and the virtual suggestion box is overflowing with great ideas and useful critiques, such as this recent suggested enhancement from Dave Winer. This kind of stuff pumps us up.

Of course we’ve also gotten some constructive criticism too. Most of it’s around holes in the data. Just like cell phone service…there can be dead zones. Comprehensiveness is one of the biggest challenges and we’re focusing a lot of time and energy on it.

Here’s the thing about local content: some of the best stuff isn’t on the Web, which makes the aggregation process pretty manual. Right now, we have more depth in some areas than others, largely because restaurants and hotels have taken to electronic publishing more quickly than, say, roofers and barbers.

Over time, you’ll see us expand the breadth and depth of information available. It’s out there, but it’s gonna take a little time to get it all. We think merchant and user communities can be very helpful in providing fresh, accurate content.

To that point, a way to help build out the content on Yahoo! Local, is to submit a review of your own, like my eloquent write-up on Sal’s Pizzeria in Mamaroneck NY.

Not only have we gotten a ton of restaurant reviews – people are submitting reviews on just about anyplace or anyone. I’ve seen reviews for dentists, auto repair shops, even the local dry cleaner. We’ve received thousands of reviews already, and in general, they’ve been very informative.

So, what’s next, you ask? We’re working on some improvements based on what we’ve heard from users and pundits since releasing the beta version. You’ll see for yourself shortly but I’ll chime in here every so often with updates. In the meantime…

Think globally, search locally…

Paul Levine
GM of Yahoo! Local


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August 23, 2004

Search Tricks #1

Walking around the Campus is an interesting experience. It's located at the far end of the San Francisco bay with lots of trails for hiking and jogging. On one of the beautifully clear days, many folks keep thinking that it might be fun to go out and enjoy being outside.

Of course, we don't. I mean sure the sun is bright and shiny and all, but one of us got this really bad sun burn and...well, never mind, let's just say there's another reason that our various significant others have considered getting us vitamin A booster shots: we love what we're doing.

No doubt about it, search is pretty darn cool.

Despite what you may have read in some news sources, Yahoo! Search does indeed offer dictionary definitions and a search line calculator. Granted, we had the calculator tool for a while if you count the one that's in AllTheWeb, but it took a while to move it to the main search box. More than likely it was stuck in a moving box next to one of those carved coconut monkeys we bought on vacation in Orlando, but I digress.

To be honest, it's easy to miss because we never really blow a big horn about a lot of the things we have. Take, for instance, some of the hidden search tricks we can do. Most folks probably know about the stuff like you can search for content in specific file types (including Microsoft Powerpoint, and XML), and you probably know most of the shortcuts we're constantly adding to, but there are a few others that, well, we've been sorta keeping to ourselves.

One is the "s:" shortcut in Yahoo! Messenger. Let's say you're on line with your Dad who is planning on doing some shop work. He's got an old desk of yours that he wants to redo but, since you were a messy child, it's currently coated in stain resistant, latex paint. He's worried that sanding might be a problem. After a bit of discussion you decide to do some research, and enter in "s:latex remover" into the conversation window and you both get to see a number of results that might be helpful.

Another semi-hidden treasure we offer is the inurl: prefix. This is particularly useful if you want to search for something which happens to be on a shared server. A good example is ibiblio.org (previously known as sunsite). This is a fantastic resource loaded with all sorts of different goodies, one of which is a herbal reference site (so we can find a nice anti-rickets supplement). By specifying a search like: site:ibiblio.org inurl:herbmed rickets we get a bunch of articles detailing what we're looking for. And a mental note to stop by the cafe and pick up a few oranges.

No, none of these are perfect. Mostly because "perfect" depends entirely on the perception of the user. And for us, we're never really satisfied. There's always one new cool thing we'll try and add in because it's something we found pretty useful, and we'll keep plugging away until we think it's better.

Sure, we may be inside more often than we should, but it's mighty satisfying to walk out at the end of the day and take a deep breath knowing that we're doing something pretty cool, and give someone another tool to get to the info they want.

JR
Technical Yahoo!


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August 18, 2004

The Engine of Possibility

It's hard to believe it's been only six months to the day we launched our own search technology and forever changed the way we develop and deploy Yahoo! Search products and services.

Yahoo! Campus on February 18, 2004
Yahoo! Campus on February 18, 2004

Since that time, search seems to increasingly be on a lot of people's minds: users, webmasters, Internet companies, journalists, marketers, industry analysts, and investors alike all share a greater interest in the search industry than at any other time in the Internet's history. When you think about it, the timing makes perfect sense as four separate events are converging:

  1. The influx of world class engineering talent drawn to the challenge of solving some of the most complex, yet commercially applicable and user valued technological problems anywhere. As Qi Lu, head of our engineering team likes to say, "search is like rocket science for the masses". It’s no wonder then that our search team has grown the ranks of our PhDs 10 fold during the last two years.
  2. The massively scalable infrastructure those world class engineers have built enables us to build applications that we couldn't even conceive of a few years ago.
  3. Long before the Internet, search was always an essential part of our lives. Whether searching for a house, a job, a significant other, or happiness in general, it's not the concept of search that is new...it's the digital application of search that has taken what was already a key part of our offline lives and made it even more indispensable.
  4. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Overture and the creation of the pay for performance model, the substantial value being generated by search companies continues to be reinvested in talent, infrastructure and subsequently the innovations that are making search better everyday.

To some extent it is this convergence that has helped fuel a spirit of innovation at Yahoo! that is at the highest point I've seen since joining the company over three years ago. It also helps explain why, though it may sound cliche, we believe Yahoo! is in the position of being able to do virtually anything we set our minds to, with the only limitation being our collective imaginations.

It is this spirit of innovation and possibility that has been behind some of our most popular and well received products and features, including our two most recent launches: the local search beta and our anti-spy toolbar.

As excited as we've been about these product introductions, perhaps the best part is that we've quite literally only just begun. Be sure to check back here for news about new product introductions, updates and exclusive betas.

In addition, this blog is designed to provide a window into what our team is thinking and doing, in their own words (and maybe some guest bloggers as well).

Above all else we hope this blog enables you to share our excitement for the search industry and what the future holds.

We hope you enjoy it and invite your participation.

Thanks,
Jeff Weiner
SVP Yahoo! Search & Marketplace


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