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July 27, 2005

Firefox Toolbar: Beta no more!

What a rush! Itís been a wild ride towards 1.0 for the Toolbar for Firefox team since February: enjoying the welcome avalanche of user feedback, fixing bugs, and debating amongst ourselves which cool features to implement first. Now that weíve polished it to a high gloss, we just canít keep it to ourselves any longer, so here it is: Yahoo! Toolbar 1.0 for Mozilla Firefox. As usual, thanks to the engineering wizardry in Mozilla Firefox, our one toolbar works on Windows, MacOS X, and Linux.

If youíve been using Yahoo! Toolbar for a while, youíre already familiar with its benefits such as:

  • Bookmarks that follow you to any computer
  • New mail notification for Yahoo! Mail
  • Customizable, one-click access to most of Yahoo!, or any web site you choose
  • Easy access to Yahoo! Search with an integrated search history for quick re-use
  • Addition of RSS feeds to your My Yahoo! page with one click

For 1.0, weíve made it even more useful for Firefox users (after all, we use it too):

  • A drag-n-drop resizable search box
  • A right mouse click menu to open bookmarks and toolbar buttons in new windows or tabs
  • A search history drop down that automatically expands to the length of the longest search query
  • Yahoo! Anti-Spy button that you can hide
  • Addition of RSS / Atom feeds to My Yahoo! via the Live Bookmarks icon
  • Support for the latest Firefox developer releases and alpha/beta browsers
  • And moreÖ

Usage of Mozilla Firefox around the world continues to grow in leaps and bounds, with over 75 million downloads since its release last November. To grow with them, weíve also added more languages to Yahoo! Toolbar: Chinese (Taiwan, Hong Kong), English (UK), French, and German. Moreover, support for Mozilla continues to grow throughout Yahoo!, such as the ability to customize your Avatars in Firefox, and search your Thunderbird email using Yahoo! Desktop Search. Weíve several more cool hacks coming down the pipe soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

Toolbar concepts are flying fast and furious here with never enough time to do them all, so we depend on your feedback to guide future development. Please let us know what you think about Yahoo! Toolbar and what youíd most like to see next.

Jon Granrose
Yahoo! Toolbar Product Manager and Firefox instigator

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July 26, 2005

Announcing the Y!Q Challenge Winners

Back in May I announced the Y!Q Challenge by saying:

What if there was a concrete incentive to play with some of the stuff we've been building? Like maybe a cold, hard $5,000. That'd buy you a nice new
. Or a dozen
. Or a year's worth of unlimited music for 100 of your closest friends. That's what the Y!Q Challenge is all about. Your job is to impress us with your use of Y!Q on your web site. Our job is to be impressed and fork over the cash.

Our panel of expert judges has reviewed all the submissions and asked me to reveal them here. They based their judging on four main criteria:

  • Relevance: How effectively have you set context so that Y!Q produces results with maximum relevance?
  • Prominence: How prominent is the placement of Y!Q on your site?
  • Placement: How creative and intuitive are the placements of Y!Q icons on your site?
  • Usefulness: To what degree does Y!Q enhance the overall user experience on your site?

Here's what they said...

Third Place

Site: Particletree.com

Implementation by

Kevin Hale ,
Chris Campbell
Ryan Campbell

Particletree did a tremendous job with prominence, topping all entrants with heavy visual customization that integrated the look and feel of their Y!Q implementation with the rest of their site. Y!Q links were also included on most of the articles on the site, and in many places within each article, something undoubtedly made simpler by their implementation of "Lazy Linking," an integration of Y!Q with the TextPattern content management system that they use.

Second Place

Site: Owensperformance.com

Implementation by

Irvin Owens Jr

Owensperformance did a great job with prominence, with Y!Q links being available for all article headlines on the home page, as well as the detailed articles. Relevance was also a strength, with context being set fairly effectively in most cases. The combination of effective prominence, relevance and the nature of the content on the site contributed to strong overall usefulness.

First Place

Site: Geekextreme.com

Implementation by

Gil Rutkowski

Geekextreme did a solid job with relevance, perhaps aided by their development of a Y!Q Mambo that integrates Y!Q with the Mambo content management system. The integration provided a simple way to set context for Y!Q and it appears they have taken full advantage of it to their benefit, and to the benefit of visitors to their site. Prominence was aided by a nice visual customization for the overlay. The frequency of fresh content on the site, combined with the solid relevance resulted in great overall usefulness.

Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone who entered the challenge. We saw some very interesting and creative uses of Y!Q and look forward to many more. By the way - we added a few in-line Y!Q's to this article to illustrate some other Y!Q usage examples. Hope you find them useful.

Jeremy Zawodny
Yahoo! Search

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July 20, 2005

Third Weather Report: Yahoo! Launched New Search Index Last Night

We made changes to the index last night so you should be seeing more of your pages in the index as well as some fluctuations in the rankings of results from previous searches. The changes will be a little more intense than the second weather report and changes will continue over the next week or two.

If you have any feedback for us about the new index please email: ystfeedback@yahoo.com.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Tim Mayer
Yahoo! Search

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July 15, 2005

Mobile, Media, Marc, and Me.

In the last year or so since joining Yahoo!, Iíve met some really amazing people--folks I continue to learn from on a daily basis. Itís one of the best things about being here. So in that vein, Iím psyched that today weíre announcing that UC Berkeley Professor Marc Davis will be joining Yahoo! as the Founding Director of the Yahoo! Research Labs--Berkeley.

Iíve known Marc since we were both grad students at the MIT Media Lab back in the early 90ís. I always loved the Media Labís "Demo or Die!" credo (as opposed to mainstream academiaís more typical "Publish or Perish!" version.) One of the reasons I have so much respect for Marcís work is that in addition to being a world-renowned academic, heís also done the entrepreneurial thing (as founder/CTO of his own startup), worked in a corporate research environment, etc. Marcís research has that "it" factor -- inevitably, it leaves me wondering "Why didnít I think of that?" His work lives at the nexus of the fieldís most exciting areas: social computing, context-aware computing, mobile and media. In fact, to a large extent, his work and research embodies the Yahoo! Search "FUSE" vision.

Iíve had a number of friends who are MIT Professors give talks at Yahoo! over the past year--incredible pioneers like Sandy Pentland, Judith Donath, Henry Lieberman, and John Maeda. When Marc visited last year, we discovered huge overlap in vision, mission and direction. After his talk, we were left with one lingering question: "How do we get Marc to Yahoo!?" His response: "Flattered... but the timing isnít great." Alas, Marc was mid-way through his tenure track position at UC Berkeley.

However, over the subsequent months it became clear to Marc--based on the people he met here, the resources weíre investing, and the vision he saw--that Yahoo! presented an opportunity that was too good to turn down. So we worked together to structure an agreement with the University that afforded Marc the best of both worlds. He could have his cake, and eat it too... and serve up a slice to nearly 400M monthly visitors to boot.

Marc is a "talent magnet," and many of his foremost students and collaborators will be joining us too. Thus, this announcement foreshadows some very interesting developments at Yahoo! Research Labs.

Itís definitely a special time in the online world in general, and specifically at Yahoo!. The opportunity to work on a daily basis with social media vanguards like Marc Davis, Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake of Flickr ensures I learn something every day. Almost like being back on campus.

Bradley Horowitz
Dir. Technology Development
Yahoo! Search

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July 14, 2005

Video Search: Now more Flashy and Fresh than ever before

In our quest for video nirvana, we've performed a major update to our Video Search index to bring you even more video content, and increased reach for video content worldwide. So now you'll be able to find even more relevant international results in your video searches.

In addition, we've branched out with the types of content that video search covers, and tonight we've added support for searching Macromedia Flash animation! (Tip: if you want to limit your video search results to just Flash animation, you can use Advanced Video Search to target your search.) This means that now all your favorite Flash sites like JibJab and HomestarRunner (my personal favorite) will now appear in your Video Search results. Because Flash is interactive, you're not just limited to watching the content you find, you can also find interactive Flash games as well.

My favorite pick for videos that came out of testing this feature: Strongbad and his new Lappy 486 laptop computer. And yes, I do love this job. ;)

Andy Volk
Product Manager, Yahoo! Video Search

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Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

be careful squeezed of hands
Originally uploaded by mimbrava.

You know what I love about this sign? Obviously there's just the hilarious "huh?" factor that comes with translations gone awry. But what makes it even better is that despite the amusing and imperfect word choice, you really can tell what it means.

That photo illustrates a fundamental problem we've been working on: your access to information is limited to the language(s) that you know. If you can't read English, you can't make use of more than half of the web's information. For example, a searcher in Germany can only access less than 10% of the web in German. At the same time--and not surprisingly--the growth of most new web info is happening in countries like China, where content has been almost doubling for each of the past three years.

At Yahoo! Search our goal is to make all of the world's knowledge available to everyone, regardless of language. With that in mind, we've developed Yahoo! Search Translation Technology (ok, that is a mouthful), and I'm excited to announce that we're releasing a beta product powered by this technology on Yahoo! Search Germany - Yahoo! Suche Translator.

So what does this really mean? We apply our Yahoo! Search Translation Technology by taking your query, looking across the entire Web and across languages to assemble the most comprehensive set of relevant results, and then returning that information in your local language. The underlying translation is powered by Systran, just like our famous Babelfish translation service.

When you want the most comprehensive set of results that supplements your local-language information with relevant global results, that's when the power of our technology really kicks in. Check it out for yourself (Achtung! It does help to know some German, but no worries if you don't-Yahoo! Search Translation Technology will be coming to a country near you soon):

  • Have some health questions? Try "Alternativen zur Nierendialyse" (alternatives to kidney dialysis): with Search Translator you go from just 1 result to another 140K pertinent results that are translated back to your local language!
  • Taking a vacation and looking for places to eat? Search for "bestes vegetarisches restaurant in San Francisco": see a 32,000x increase in relevant results, including those directly from San Francisco and the local City Search tourist guides.
  • Or looking for some good recipes? How about "Rezept Ingwer-Kuchen" (ginger cake recipes): a greater variety of recipes from around the world!

And yes, you will run into the "squeezed of hands" results--it is, after all, a machine translation. But we're on it-the technology is still in its early days, and we're working on improving the quality of translations and range of languages we support over time.

As this is launching with our German brethren, I'm also excited to announce the launch of Yahoo! Search Blog auf Deutsch which will be at http://ysearchblog.com/de/. Keep up with our German-specific progress there and get to know our international team!

So play with Search Translator. Try a bunch of searches. Tell us when it's helpful, when it's not, and when it just gives you a good laugh. Share your ideas about how we can make it better. Give us a sign.

Lesley Kao
Sr. Product Manager
Yahoo! Search

PS: Want more of those signs? Check out one of my favorite Flickr groups: http://www.flickr.com/groups/engrish/

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July 12, 2005

Hey Jeremy, this one's for you (wink, nod)!

Check out our new update to Yahoo! Desktop Search.

We're excited to introduce three new improvements:

  1. Support for Mozilla Thunderbird email client: Indexes all email and attachments in Thunderbird. (Read what Jeremy thinks of this.)
  2. Simplified UI and tabs: Your feedback was very helpful. Please keep your comments coming either on our message board or with our feedback form
  3. Reduced download size: Most of you just need to search emails, MS Office docs, PDFs and other common filetypes. So we've made the initial download much faster by splitting out support for the large number of less common filetypes into a separate expansion pack. You can download the free expansion pack at any time, or YDS will let you know when you've encountered a filetype that requires it.
    (NOTE: if you had version 1.0 or 1.1 of YDS, you will still need to install the expansion pack even though the older versions included all the filetype support. Sorry for the inconvenience this time, but we'll find a way to make this unnecessary for future upgrades.)

And thanks again to all our Beta testers!

Duke Fan
Sr Product Manager, Search Client Team

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July 07, 2005

Spam or not? I think not.

My Web 2.0 is just over a week old now and, despite the limited number of beta testers we're working with, there's already 37,231 saved pages tagged with 14,098 tags! Itís really been a lot of fun to watch as interesting tags and pages pop up. Check out the tag this week in houseblogging--fascinating. Makes me wish I could afford a house out here in San Francisco sometime this decade.

With all the tagging going on, some folks are wondering about those classic issues of spam. Steve Rubel just posted about there being potential tag spam on My Web 2.0. Iím not so sure. It looks like one of our users is really just tagging stuff the way they want, enthusiastically I might add. I might not understand that tag (nor even like it), but if they find it useful I say go ahead and tag away.

Why can I say that? Well remember folks, My Web 2.0 is a social search engine where your community shares their insights with you. While the web can sometimes seem like the Wild Wild West, the trusted web is a place where you decide who you want to listen to. If I like the stuff that someone saves and the tags that theyíre using, Iíll connect to them! If I donítÖwell, you know.

Chung-Man Tam
My Web Product Manager

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July 06, 2005

92466: No Phone Left Behind!

Hey, I'm back to talk about Yahoo! Mobile again ≠ this time we've got some Mobile Search news which is pretty cool.

Though many of us in Yahoo! Mobile are hip to the latest in mobile technologies and walk around with cutting edge mobile phones in our pockets, we're still very aware that the vast majority of cellular customers here in the U.S. still really haven't used many advanced mobile features like, you know, accessing the Internet wirelessly. Can you believe it? Thus we have a couple announcements today geared towards making the Yahoo! Mobile more accessible to more mobile phone customers.

It's not like the U.S. is in a mobile backwater any more. The good thing is thanks to the combined marketing powers of the national carriers and shows like American Idol, most American cellular customers are at least aware of SMS Text Messaging now (which is nice), and pretty much every handset out there supports texting as a basic functionality. So today we're launching SMS Yahoo! Search so that just about anyone with a mobile phone can access Yahoo!

Though it may seem like a step backwards from the rich mobile-web based search that Yahoo! Mobile already has, it's actually just another ≠ and one could argue faster - way to access the same data. What we've done is provide a number of search shortcuts that you can send to 92466 (YAHOO) to receive back a set of SMS Text responses to your query. This is actually very useful just by itself, and pretty much like most SMS search services out there. But we've gone one better by providing URL links in each text message which brings you back to Yahoo Mobile's richer WAP based web pages, with more details than can fit in a text message, links and maps. It does depend on the phone as to how easy this URL is accessed ≠ on newer phones it may be underlined like in any web page, or for Motorola Phones for example, there is a "Go To" option which will find the URL in the message and use it automagically. But the option is there, and it makes SMS Text queries quite useful for the most basic and advanced users alike.

If you think about an SMS message form, it's very similar to a search box found already on Yahoo! Search. You fill out one field with your query, press a button and great results come back. Now you don't have to fumble with bookmarks or wait for the initial Yahoo! Mobile Search form to load, you can send off your search as fast as you can send a friend a quick text message. What's more, is that we've also included functionality to do the same search just by replying to an original response ≠ say if you've done a stock quote search for YHOO earlier in the day, instead of having to retype the query again, just send a blank reply to one of the earlier quotes and Yahoo! will send you an update automatically.

Right now you can search for any local information by sending a query with your location or zip code like: "pizza 94025", you can get a stock quote with: "s yhoo", weather information: "w 94025", dictionary definitions: "d garrulous", horoscopes: "h aquarius", WiFi hotspots: "wifi 94123", and more are coming.

But we're not done yet. We're also aware that most people who do have phones that can access the Internet, don't have full HTML browsers yet, so many pages that come back from general search results have only been accessible to more advanced PDA-like phones like Palm Treos that can display full-on web pages. We've now finally fixed that hole in our mobile offerings by providing a transcoding process on the search results for all WAP2 enabled phones. In other words, once you've done a search and click on one of the resulting links, if you're using a phone with a WAP2 browser, we'll translate the web page for you so it's accessible on your handset. But we leave some of the images in and not cut the page up too badly - in other words, it be both accessible and usable at the same time. We are also using shortcuts in this service, something that sets us apart from the competition.

Pretty cool hey? Please put your questions and comments below - though I'll try to head off some of the first ones: this service is just for the U.S. right now, sorry to you international users.

Russell Beattie
Mobile Yahoo!

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Crawling Jobs

Our friends over at Yahoo! HotJobs have begun using our web crawl data to organically discover job listings on the web. And as you might expect, it's been picked up on some blogs already.

So here's the scoop... Much like My Yahoo! started knocking down walls a couple years ago by inviting anyone with an RSS feed to the aggregation party, HotJobs is using Yahoo! Search to do something quite similar for on-line job listings. They're pulling in jobs from around the Internet: company web sites, local job listings, specialized job boards, and so on.

More jobs means more choices, whether you're hunting or hiring. And we really don't think you should ever have to use more than one job search engine to find a job listing (just like web search).

Of course, they're testing a few versions of the interface, so let us know what you think.

Jeremy Zawodny
Yahoo! Search

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July 01, 2005

Extra, Extra, Read All About It: My Web 2.0

My oh my, we had no idea how much discussion, both pro and con, the launch of our social search engine would generate! We've got a few thoughts of our own on the topic and would love to hear what you think. Just a reminder...we created a separate blog for the My Web community, highlighting the people, thoughts and technologies that make it all possible. We hope you'll join the conversation.

The My Web 2.0 team

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