Y!Q: Adding Context to Search

Everytime we launch a new service, someone asks where the idea came
from and why we did it. There’s a good story behind this one, so I
thought I’d write it up here.

A bit over a year ago, href="http://docs.yahoo.com/docs/pr/executives/weiner.html">Jeff ran across a story on href="http://news.yahoo.com/">Yahoo! News about the #1 song in the
UK during the Christmas holiday. It was the href="http://www.garyjules.com/">Gary Jules href="http://www.lacitybeat.com/article.php?id=963&IssueNum=52">remake
of the Tears
for Fears
song Mad World. This caught his interest and
he wanted to know more.

Why is this song so popular? Where can I hear it? Is there a video?
Can I buy it?

He spent the next 30 minutes searching for answers to those questions and
more.

It turns out that the song’s popularity had a lot to do with the movie
href="http://movies.yahoo.com/shop?d=hv&cf=info&id=1804383671">Donnie
Darko. The movie became a cult hit and the song was on the
soundtrack.

But I digress..

As a result of this experience, he posed a challenge to the Yahoo!
Search team: to build technology that makes it possible to accomplish
tasks like this in just a few minutes.

Not long after that, the team got wind of some contextual search
technology that Reiner
Kraft
was building. Now, Reiner is one of our resident geniuses.
When he was at IBM, there was a patent attorney who did little more
than handle Reiner’s inventions. href="http://www.techreview.com/">MIT’s Technology Review even included
him in their TR 100, a
list of technology innovators under the age of 35.

Reiner had realized that the current method of searching isn’t always
the most efficent way to get what you’re after. Most people aren’t
skilled in the art of choosing exactly which keywords to use when
searching.

Reiner’s technology was designed to help eliminate that problem. The
fundamental idea was to supplement search queries with
context. So instead of having to spend a lot of time
searching and assembling all the information you’re after, this
contextual search technology could incorporate that context (the stuff
you were reading at you moment you decided that you wanted to know
more) to find the most relevant results.

The team had a look at what Reiner was doing and immediately realized that
it could be used to meet Jeff’s challenge. They asked for a few
tweaks and two days later, Reiner had a working prototype. Excited by
what they saw, the team asked what it’d take to turn it into a full-blown
service. In no time Reiner had the help of some of our best product and engineering folks, as well as one of our DHTML wizards.

What they built is href="http://yq.search.yahoo.com/splash/start.html">Y!Q, which puts search right where you need it and incorporates the context of your searches.
Y!Q is a cool DHTML module that embeds contextual search directly into
a web page. We’re href="http://yq.search.yahoo.com/splash/start.html#news">showcasing it
in a test environment on Yahoo! News, but href="http://yq.search.yahoo.com/splash/embed.html">any web publisher
can embedY!Q into their content (that embedding process is currently a bit klunky, but we’re working on that).

Y!Q is also available through the Y!Q
DemoBar
, an Internet Explorer toolbar that brings Y!Q’s
contextual search functionality to any web page. Simply highlight
some related text on the page you’re reading and then perform a
search.

If you’re a Firefox user like me, don’t worry. You can also href="http://yq.search.yahoo.com/splash/firefox.html">add Y!Q to
Firefox.

In each implementation, Y!Q uses the context to help bridge the gap
between query and intent. This should help turn some of those 30
minute affairs into the 2-3 minute tasks they ought to be.

Give Y!Q a try and let us know what you think. It is
a beta product right now, so we’ll likely be tweaking things in the
near future.

Jeremy Zawodny

Yahoo! Search

P.S. If you’re wondering about the name, it’s play on “IQ”.
Knowledge often comes from combining information with the
relevant context, so it seemed like an appropriate name.

  • 21 Comments
  • Subscribe
back to yahoo! search

subscription options

Facebook Fans

latest posts

archives