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April 28, 2005

Tinkering with search.yahoo.com

My dad is a bit of a gardener and he's also recently taken up roasting tiny batches of coffee beans. The results, besides earning the title of Papa Barista from my sister in law, are some great coffee and tasty veggies. He's been tinkering on both fronts - in the short term, new types of coffee beans every few weeks, and in the long term he's changed the mix in the garden, putting in more garlic this year, probably to tie in with the bumper crops of basil he gets and his pesto making activities.

We've been doing a little tinkering of our own on the Search front page at search.yahoo.com. No surprise that the focus of the page is search, but we got requests to add mail and news to the page, so we tried to do so with minimal impact on those who weren't interested. The result? We added individual mail and news modules that you can show or hide at will, so now if want to see your mail status or news headlines (or both), you've got that option. If not, you can simply leave the modules hidden. The choice is up to you.

Since the response has been good, we'll continue tinkering. The latest change to the page is the addition of a link to My Web, our personal search engine that allows you to save, recall, and share information you find online (check out Kevin's post for more info). In the short term we'll continue to test some different links and in the long term maybe change the mix a little as to what is shown where.

What can I say? Like father, like son. Grab a cup of fresh coffee (skip the pesto for now) and check the Search front page out at search.yahoo.com - we hope you like it. If you think of something you would like to see on the page or a change you think should be made, by all means, leave a comment below.

Adam Durfee
Product Manager
Yahoo! Search


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April 26, 2005

Saving, Sharing, and Syndicating Search via My Web

Back in October 2004, I blogged about a personal search product we called My Yahoo! Search. At the time, I wrote “our vision is of a very individual Web – a ‘My Web’, if you will.”

Today, we launched a 'My Web', a new personal search engine fully integrated with Yahoo! Search. My Web is based on a very simple principle - a search engine should enable you to define and use the information that’s important to you. Specifically, My Web enables you to find the information relevant to you, save it, share it, add your own notes to it, and easily find it again, whether it’s three days or three months later.

The idea is a simple one – we provide a “Save” button on our search results, on the Yahoo! Toolbar (for both IE and Firefox), and, in the future, anywhere you might find useful info on the Web. When you hit the “Save” button, My Web grabs that page and makes a cached copy which is fully searchable. Anytime you need that page, all you need to do is search My Web.

You can publish your My Web links via RSS and, of course, there’s an API for My Web published on YSDN. We're also experimenting with Attention.XML as a way to ship around My Web data. To try it out, go to any My Web RSS feed and replace the "rss.xml" filename with "attention.xml". As is often the case with brand new ideas, we haven't really figured out how exactly this should work, but there’s only one way to find out.

The old (but still useful) features from the original My Yahoo! Search product are still around… you can still use our optional search history (now conveniently available at the top of the search results page) to remember previous searches and block unwanted sites from search results. And there are some new additions, like the ability to import both IE and Yahoo! bookmarks (with support for other browsers forthcoming). Looking forward, we plan to keep building on My Web – letting users share links via the new Yahoo! 360 is just one example.

But enough talk. Go to http://search.yahoo.com and try it for yourself and let us know what you think.

Kevin Akira Lee
Senior Product Manager
Yahoo! Search


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April 21, 2005

"Recent Innovations in Search" Revisited

Tuesday, April 12: A capacity crowd filled the hilltop auditorium up at PARC on Coyote Hill Road, overlooking the verdant sprawl of Palo Alto and Silicon Valley. The spring evening was a clear and brilliant blue, and the BayCHI event was free and open to the public. People packed the rows, spilling into the aisles. Latecomers watched the presentation from TV sets quickly deployed in the lobby.

We were there to hear from a handful of industry thought leaders about Recent Innovations in Search and Other Ways of Finding Information. In speaking order, the panel consisted of: Peter Norvig (Google), Ken Norton (Yahoo!) , Mark Fletcher (Bloglines/Ask Jeeves), Udi Manber (A9), and Jakob Nielsen (Nielsen Norman Group), the "guru of usability." Rashmi Sinha (Uzanto Consulting) moderated.

Bay CHI is the local branch of a professional organization for computer-human interaction professionals. Not surprisingly, the crowd was weighted with designers, developers, information architects, students, consultants, and entrepreneurs. Like me, many were employees of the companies represented. Were we expecting a sermonette? A shouting match? New insights tactical or strategic?

What we got was the articulate and intelligent conversation of peers, some anecdotes that resonated and rippled outward. Each panel member had five minutes for show and tell. These presentations have been summarized and posted by better note-takers than I. Jonathan Boutelle's piece hones in on the exuberance and recaps some common themes.

Boutelle's first two points about search tugged at my sleeve: An undocumented command line interface. Mediating between human beings and the desired information objects created by other human beings.

Search is still difficult, but it's getting better in interesting ways. Because the search experience connects two humans, it's as much about facilitating trustworthy communication and clarifying intent as it is about information retrieval between machines. There's a renewed focus on the user experience and social media -- where software meets wetware.

As search escapes the box, and flows into powerful new interfaces for different types of interactions, we should anticipate a flourishing of creativity like that which occurred when personal computing moved from the blinking cursor to the metaphorical desktop.

Will we finally be released from a cramped 18-character-wide rectangle to search like there's nobody looking? Do our camera phones hold more than the promise of an "image mess"?

Ken Norton's walkthrough was a whirlwind tour of year one in the life of Yahoo! Search Technology--the stream of releases and innovations Search Blog readers have come to expect. Ken covered Desktop Search, MyYahooSearch, Creative Commons search, Mobile Search, Local initiatives, RSS integration in Search, Y!Q (search at the point of inspiration), Flickr and the potential of social media.

What's next? Yahoo! Search is committed to creating the tools to find, use, share and expand all human knowledge. Join us in facilitating a bold remix of content, community, information, commerce, and culture, to build a viable metaverse for citizens of the 21st century.

Note: You'll find more excellent notes and detailed summaries of this BayCHI event from Barney Pell , Mike Rowehl, and David Lyons .

Havi Hoffman
Yahoo! Editorial


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April 14, 2005

I Spy A Community

Last May, the Yahoo! Anti-Spy Community was launched as part of the Yahoo! Toolbar Anti-Spy feature. As the spyware/adware industry has become more profitable, spyware/adware infection has become an increasing threat to unsuspecting web surfers, causing losses in productivity and sometimes ruining our online experience. These pests can slow your computer to a crawl, hijack your web browser, and even spy on your every keystroke.

In the past 11 months, thousands of you have turned to Yahoo!'s Anti-Spy Community for advice on ridding your computers of these unwanted pests. It’s been really gratifying to watch the community grow globally to include people from the U.S., Canada, England, France, El Salvador, the Philippines, and points beyond. A core group of expert members are on hand to offer guidance on how to get rid of unwanted spyware/adware, prevent re-infection and keep our systems running smoothly. Many of these members share knowledge and ideas for no other reason than to help each other.

Because this real-time forum literally never sleeps, information from members often outpaces spyware/adware alerts found in traditional media. A lot of these folks speak from the experience of having been infected by spyware/adware, and their suggestions are tried and tested on their own computers. The experts posting in the Anti-Spy Community gain the trust of others because they've been through similar situations themselves. It's this shared trust that makes the Anti-Spy Community extraordinary.

To help the Anti-Spy Community thrive, we’ve recently made some improvements. Last month we implemented a new message board platform that’s easier to navigate and allows for deeper discussions. We also added message ratings so you can acknowledge helpful posts, as well as message threading which makes it easier to track individual topics. We’ve also added a button to our Anti-Spy application that makes it easier to access the Community once a spyware/adware scan is completed.

If you haven't checked out the Anti-Spy Community, we invite you to come visit and give us your thoughts. We’re looking forward to further growth and more improvements in the near future and your feedback will help make this an even better, more useful destination.

Carole McManus
Yahoo! Search & Marketplace Communities


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April 12, 2005

Got 5 Minutes? We'll Give You The Web...

Turns out that over half of the small businesses in the U.S. aren’t yet online. We’ve been working with small businesses over the last several years to help make it easier to get online by offering services like domain names, hosting, and e-commerce stores. We thought we’d kick it up a notch and eliminate the effort and expense altogether. We are now offering a free business web site to every small business in the U.S. through Yahoo! Local. Yes, that’s every small business in the U.S.

If you have a small business that is not yet online, click here. Signup and walk through a simple wizard, and you'll have your own five-page small business web site up in minutes. Did we mention this is free?

Why?

We hope this feature inspires more small businesses to hang their shingle online so they can grow their business, find new customers, and build stronger relationships with their existing customers - all with their own web site URL. This should also help you find even more information when searching for business services online.

This is in beta so please let us know what you think by posting a comment below.

So, got that five minutes?

Guy Yalif and Brian Gil
Yahoo! Small Business and Yahoo! Local


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April 07, 2005

Jimmy Wales on Wikipedia and Yahoo!

From time to time we've invited guest bloggers to write on the Yahoo! Search blog. Today we have a post from Jimmy Wales, president of the Wikimedia Foundation. We asked him to write a few words about our donation to the foundation and our efforts to better integrate Wikipedia content into Yahoo! Search worldwide.


Wikipedia is a global charitable effort to create and give away a freely licensed encyclopedia in every language of the world. We have achieved a remarkable amount in our short history (just over 4 years!), having built already the largest English language encyclopedia in history, and very large encyclopedias in French, German, and Japanese, as well as strong efforts underway in over 100 more languages.

In addition to Wikipedia, we have many spin-off projects of equal importance from Wiktionary (dictionary) to Wikibooks (textbooks) to Wikinews (news reporting) and more.

Our growth in web traffic continues to be staggering, doubling every few months. Yahoo's generous donation to our cause in the form of servers, hosting and bandwidth will have a huge impact on our ability to get our message of sharing knowledge out to the world. Yahoo's donation is purely charitable in nature with no requirements for us to show advertising, and no ownership or control of our work by Yahoo of any kind. Yahoo is simply enthusiastic about the goodness of our work.

As our relationship with Yahoo has grown over the past year, we began to talk about other ways that Yahoo could help us. One theme that made sense for both of us was to think about Yahoo's global reach and Wikipedia's global goals. As we have grown it has become apparent that we can better serve our visitors by adding data centers around the world.

With the growth of the many Asian Wikimedia communities, the location of a new datacenter for Wikimedia in Asia made a lot of sense to us both.

But as generous as the hosting is, we are even more excited about Yahoo's recognition of the value of our work in enhancing the experience of Yahoo visitors. This exposure will let even more people know about the great cultural things that are happening on the Internet and get even more people involved in helping us to help each other make the world a better place.

Jimmy Wales
Wikimedia Foundation


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What is the capital of Guatemala?

When the French Yahoo! Search team goes to lunch, we often have lengthy discussions about the precise meaning of a word, we often guess the name of the capital of a faraway country, and we often take bets about the exact date of some historic event. As soon as we come back to work, one of us types a query in Yahoo! Search and then e-mails the exact answer to everybody. Indeed, Yahoo! Search has become our encyclopedia of choice: we can use it to find the answer to most factual questions, and most of the time the answer is right on the results page, in the few snippets that the engine chooses to display.

That brings us to our second-favourite lunch-time activity: playing the "Wouldn't it be cool if..." game. That's when we dream up all the cool features we could add to the search engine to make everyone's life easier. One day, after arguing about some geographical detail, Caroline, our search content producer for France, suggested that we could use the Yahoo! Search shortcuts to display directly the answers to geographical questions. We then asked ourselves: "Wouldn't it be cool if we showed country summaries from Wikipedia with a link to the full entry?". That day, we e-mailed Florence Devouard from the Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees that we knew from the French wikisphere to check that she would find it as cool as we thought. She did, so we went ahead, downloaded the data, created some mock-ups and quickly secured internal support for our lunch-break project. Today we are launching our Wikimedia shortcuts in France, and they'll be on many more Yahoo! sites soon.

Try it yourself.

That's what we love about working at Yahoo!: anyone can come up with a cool idea and has the power to make them happen.

Stéphane Gigandet
Yahoo! International Search Engineering

and

Caroline Constantin
Yahoo! Search France

P.S. Jimmy Wales, president of the Wikimedia Foundation, has written a guest blog post about this as well.


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April 05, 2005

No Platform Left Behind...

In February, we released Yahoo! Toolbar Beta for Firefox on Windows. At that time, some folks were able to use it on other platforms, but now I'm proud to announce that Yahoo! Toolbar officially supports Firefox for Mac and Linux too! Not only that, but it's available for the UK and Hong Kong.

Try it at:

US: toolbar.yahoo.com
UK: uk.toolbar.yahoo.com
Hong Kong: hk.toolbar.yahoo.com

We've made some improvements to the Windows version too, and it now works with Anti-Spy just like Yahoo! Toolbar for IE.

So please give the latest Beta version a try and let us know what you think. And to all of you who have sent us feedback, thank you for your help and support!

Viraj Chavan
Yahoo! Toolbar Engineer


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April 01, 2005

Announcing Yahoo! Slacker

Today we're thrilled to be announcing an upcoming product that's near and dear to the heart of high school and college students around the world: Yahoo! Slacker.

What is it?

Yahoo! Slacker will be the culmination of several efforts to provide a set of integrated services for... well, slackers. Yahoo! Slacker will include the following:

  • Book Slacker is a full-text searchable index composed of the popular Cliffs Notes and Dummies Books
  • IM Slacker is a "parental response" IMVironment that auto-responds to your IMs from your parents with "Sorry, I'm studying..." while you chat with friends.
  • Local Slacker will find the nearest pizza and provide one-click ordering.
  • Music Slacker automatically scans Yahoo! Music and queues up any song that played on the previous night's episode of The O.C.
  • Spelling Slacker will use our Misspelling API and our vast experience in speling as a Microsoft Word plug-in to ensure you have enough of those squiggly red lines in your homework assignments.

How?

Well, scanners are cheap these days. Really cheap. When you combine a few $60 scanners with some willing Ph.D interns, we expect the entire book scanning project to take no more than 4 weeks and $6,000.

Everything else is being built on our existing infrastructure by a few engineers during their "slacking time." At Yahoo!, engineers sometimes spend parts of their weekends and holidays slacking off. Now, those engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of that slacking time working on the Yahoo! Slacker project.

When?

Yahoo! Slacker will be available at slacker.yahoo.com in time for the 2005 school year.

Unless we don't finish it in time...

Jose Marlock
Yahoo! Slacker


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