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August 31, 2005

Raves for your Faves

Here at Yahoo!, we've been working for many years on ways to enable people to exchange vital and useful information with each other, and the recent launch of Yahoo! Local, along with My Web and message boards on Yahoo! Travel have been important steps in that direction. User-generated content such as user reviews will drive big changes in the way people decide what to do and where to travel. To that end, today we kicked off the "Best Of" where you can tell the world what's truly hot in your local community and across the globe. If you love it, we want to hear about it!

From now through October 4, vote for and review your favorite services and travel destinations across a multitude of categories, from cheap eats to luxury hotels, car washes to contractors. For doing your part, you'll also have a chance to win some really good stuff, including a brand new 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata or 2006 MAZDA5. To participate, and to view the full rules and other important legal stuff, go to bestof.yahoo.com. We'll announce your winning hot spots, destinations and eateries in mid-October.

Michelle Baker
Yahoo! Local


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August 29, 2005

New and Improved Mail Search

I’m an email pack rat – and I’m not alone. As our mailboxes have grown, so has our need to quickly find the information stored in them. That’s why Yahoo! Mail is launching all new search features that will make mail management more efficient, and hopefully, a little more fun. The new mail search will be available to some users on August 30th and will gradually roll out to all Yahoo! Mail users over the coming months. Here are some of the key features:

Attachment Search
Our users wanted easier ways to find the important information in their mailboxes, including information sent as attachments. In addition to quickly searching the entire message and providing snippets and highlighting of the search terms, we’ve taken it a lot further. To begin with, we perform prefix matching by default – very useful when searching for people with complicated, long names. For example, searching on “chris” will return matches for the last name Christopoulos (a name I can never spell right…) We also search the content of most file attachments, since an email message is often just metadata around an attached document, which might be the heart of the content.

Search Refinements
We’re making power searching easy with dynamic search refinement options that help you narrow down results. Results get broken down into five categories: Senders, Folders, Attachments, Message Status, and Date. You’ll see links for all of the unique values that exist for each category (e.g., all of the senders of messages in the current results set). With a few simple clicks, you can see the messages that a friend has sent you, that contain photo attachments, and that were sent in the last month.

Search-refinement-thumb.jpg

Photo View and Attachment Views
Many people search mail specifically trying to find photos or attachments. To make this easier, we have created two new search “views”. After running a search, you can click on the Photo View to view thumbnails of all of the photos attached to your results set. From the Photo View, you can view the higher-res photo or save photos to your computer.

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The Attachment View is similar, displaying thumbnails for many common file types. And we present the Attachment View in a column layout, making it easy to sort. From the Attachment View, you can select one or multiple files and save them to your computer (of course, after a quick virus scan).

Did I mention the search refinement options also work with the Photo View and Attachment Views?

Attachment-view-thumb.jpg

So when are these features coming to a mailbox near you? We are rolling out these features gradually to give us time to thumbnail the millions of photos and attachments and index the billions of messages Yahoo! Mail users around the world have accumulated (we’re talking about petabytes of data). The new system is designed to be a global solution and requires deployment in all of our data centers worldwide. We’re working as fast as we can, but please be patient if you don’t see the features right away.

Happy searching!

Drew Garcia
Sr. Product Manager, Yahoo! Mail


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August 18, 2005

Toolbar and Messenger raise their Y!Q

When we first released Y!Q Contextual Search we also provided a Y!Q Demobar for download. With the Y!Q Demobar, you could highlight not just a few words, but an entire sentence, a paragraph, or even a complete article, and use that selection to trigger a search.

With the Y!Q Demobar, you could enjoy two of Y!Q's most important benefits:

  1. Not having to worry about query articulation. Select as much text as you want and Y!Q will "automagically" determine the context from your selection and provide the most relevant results. (Try copying and pasting long text into a regular search box for comparison and you will notice the difference.)
  2. Getting search results on the spot without leaving the page that you're on. Y!Q gives you your results in a small overlay window. Some of my colleagues call this a "search snack." (Does that make search results in a full-size window a search "meal"?)

We received lots of positive feedback after the initial release of the Y!Q but many of you were asking: "Why do I need to download an extra toolbar? Why not just add Y!Q to the regular Yahoo! Toolbar"?

Good news: We heard the feedback, and the latest version of the Yahoo! Toolbar for Internet Explorer now supports Y!Q (integrated along with other cool features, such as saving to My Web and Y! Music Engine controls). Install the latest Yahoo! Toolbar, select several words from the web page you're reading, and you'll see an actuator icon. Select the "Search" menu item and you'll get contextual search results, right at "the point of inspiration" when you see something interesting on the web (see Figure below)

But we didn't stop with Toolbar. We also added Y!Q to the new version of Yahoo! Messenger with Voice, within the LiveWords feature. Activate LiveWords from the Yahoo! Messenger preferences menu and interesting words in your IM conversation are under-lined. Click on those words to trigger a search, or just as with Toolbar, select message text to trigger a Y!Q search (see Figure below)

Moving towards a "select and click model" for searching takes a little getting used to. I was used to sometimes typing in long and specific queries in a toolbar or search box, which worked fine most of the time. Now that I'm using the latest Yahoo! Toolbar and Yahoo! Messenger, I don't miss the typing or cutting-and-pasting at all.

We don't think you'll miss them either, so please give it a try within Yahoo! Toolbar and Yahoo! Messenger, and let us know what you think. We're always interested in learning more on how to improve Y!Q.

Reiner Kraft
Technical Yahoo!


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August 16, 2005

Next Generation of Yahoo! Local

Ever wonder how to find the best pizza in Pacific Heights, or a great tailor in Tribeca? Tonight we unveiled our next generation Yahoo! Local, which is designed to make it easier for you to browse community content and search by neighborhood. With our new features and design, we showcase the recommendations from YOU throughout the site. After all, who knows better than you about your own neighborhood?

Start with our city pages, which we've built for every city, neighborhood, and zip across the US of A. Our new city pages highlight upcoming events, top user recommendations for restaurants and other favorite local spots -- all neatly plotted on a map of your city or neighborhood. On our search results pages, check out the "User recommended" refinement option to quickly see the best the area has to offer according to the community locals.

Maps are now incorporated throughout the site to be there when you need them but not get in the way when you don't. For instance, on our results page, hover over the small map to reveal a larger, interactive map with icons that link to the detailed listing record page. You'll also notice that we have the option to refine location by neighborhood in major cities and even support searching by neighborhood (see North Beach in San Francisco).

There are a bunch of other upgrades including comprehensive coverage of local events, a directory for browsing, recent history of searches and listings viewed, top searches in each city per week, more content culled from the web using YST, and the ability to search by phone number. And it's RSS enabled.

Of course, this is just the beginning, so please send over any feedback or enhancement requests so we can continue to improve. What you contribute to Yahoo! Local can make all the difference.

Brian Gil
Yahoo! Local


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August 10, 2005

New Yahoo! Search Marketing Alliance Program = More Money, More Client Resources

Back in 2001, Yahoo! Search Marketing was the first to provide industry-leading education, training programs and revenue opportunities to third party partners through our Ambassador Program. After four successful years, I'm excited to announce that we're building on our commitment to this community by introducing a new Yahoo! Search Marketing Alliances program specifically designed to help agencies, search engine marketers (SEMs) and Web professionals earn money and grow their businesses.

Here is how the Yahoo! Search Marketing Alliances Program can work for you:

You are a Webmaster working with a few clients and you want them to succeed by marketing their sites more effectively. You can go to Yahoo! Search Marketing to review the Marketing Alliances program and decide if you want to manage or refer your client’s sponsored search accounts. Once you make that determination, sign up with the appropriate track to get access to online training materials, then study our products and services and take a certification test that once you pass qualifies you to participate in the program. Once you've achieved your designation for managing or referring clients, we’ll give you the tools you’ll need to better manage your clients' search marketing campaigns or simply refer them to us for a commission. It's that simple.

You'll also receive a program logo to put on your site and marketing materials to promote your expertise. Additionally, you can receive customer credits and unlimited commissions based on your participation.

We're very excited to introduce this program and think it will offer agencies, search engine marketers (SEMs) and Web professionals even greater opportunity to earn money and enhance their own client services. We are very interested in your feedback, we hope you’ll post a comment here.

Dan Boberg
Senior Director, Strategic Alliances


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August 08, 2005

Our Blog is Growing Up – And So Has Our Index

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since we launched the Yahoo! Search Blog. On this anniversary I thought this would be a good time to update you on some of what we’ve been up to at Yahoo! Search. If you are a regular reader then you’ve seen lots of posts over the past year highlighting what we’ve been working on:

But you will notice we haven’t talked much about plain old Web search. You know, the one that gets used billions of times a month by people all over the world. We don’t blog about it as often as our other products, but since it is the foundation for everything we do it’s always top of mind. Since our first post on the search blog was about Yahoo! Search, I thought I would give you an update on what’s been happening.

As those of you who follow this blog know, I recently posted a weather report alerting you to material changes to our index. Since that post, we've seen some discussion from webmasters who have noticed more of their documents in our index. As it turns out we have grown our index and just reached a significant milestone at Yahoo! Search – our index now provides access to over 20 billion items. While we typically don't disclose size (since we've always said that size is only one dimension of the quality of a search engine), for those who are curious this update includes just over 19.2 billion web documents, 1.6 billion images, and over 50 million audio and video files. Note that as with all index updates we are still tuning things so you’ll continue to see some fluctuation in ranking over the next few weeks.

Ensuring you find what you're looking for is the true measure of search engine quality and something we strive for every day. We measure quality in terms of RCFP – Relevance, Comprehensiveness, Freshness, and Presentation and continue to work on improving those metrics. While we’re never satisfied, it is nice to see some of our efforts over the past year have been recognized – including winning the 5th annual Outstanding Search Service award from Search Engine Watch and our top position in the Search Engine Relevancy Challenge.

Going forward, I am most excited about the talent that we have on the team, including some notable new additions. Dr. Prabhakar Ragavan recently joined and is heading up Yahoo! Research Labs. We also just opened Yahoo! Research Labs – Berkeley and will be tapping into the world-class talent pool at U.C. Berkeley. Across labs and the Yahoo! Search team we will continue to explore new technologies in areas like information retrieval, machine learning, social search, and mobile search.

So what are you missing?

Chris Sherman over at Search Engine Watch wrote an article last week about the variance in search engine results among different providers. It was interesting to note how little overlap there is – nearly 85% of first page results are unique to one engine. Sort of makes you wonder what you are missing if you are stuck in a search engine rut...

Give us a spin at www.yahoo.com or search.yahoo.com and leave us a comment here to let us know what you think.

Tim Mayer
Yahoo! Search


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August 04, 2005

See You at The Yammys

It looks like online videos have rapidly become one of the biggest examples of the viral nature of the Web. Remember the Numa Numa clip that Andy Volk blogged about a while back? Since then I couldn't tell you the number of videos I've either received from friends or searched for and emailed myself. Here are some of my other favorites: Skating Dog and of course JibJab's Second Term Video. I'm a sucker for a short video clip and judging from the number of comments Andy's blogs always receive, so are a lot of other people.

We wanted to reward some of the best, funniest, quirkiest video clips out there so we created The Yammys - The Yahoo! Video Search Awards. The Yammys recognizes those fearless souls who give us stuff to search for on Yahoo! Video Search and keep us laughing and emailing our friends.

Contestants can submit a video in 1 of 5 categories: Bloopers, Pets, Road Trips, Office Humor, and a Catch-All "I Can't Believe It!" There's also a voting phase that starts August 30 so even if you don't enter the contest, you can still cast your vote for your favorites.

Check out the contest or go to search.yahoo.com and search for "The Yammys". The contest is sponsored by Casio and has some pretty cool prizes. If nothing else, you can get a good laugh out of the example videos on the site. And of course, if you think you've got the next Numa Numa, you can always send in a clip of your own.

Ryan Rigoli
Yahoo! Search


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August 03, 2005

The World is Listening

We've just rolled out our latest multimedia search engine into Beta: Yahoo! Audio Search, and we'd like you to take a look at it on Next.yahoo.com. It's a work in progress, but if you've been reading the press at all these days, audio publishing is taking on new life and we feel we need to get some tools out there to help connect those who are listening to those who are talking, and singing, and sounding off...

Every voice should be heard

Audio publishing is beginning to flourish again. Through its many machinations and legal growing pains, online audio is finding legitimate legs to stand on, in many different voices, and it's starting to get exciting. What we're building - and what you're seeing here - is more of a platform in its early stages; an open search platform on which we can build the tools to help users find both existing and new forms of audio content as they emerge.

Y! Audio Search is the largest index of audio content on the Web today, with over 50 million audio files (consider that the average music service has 1 million files, and the next largest audio engine has 12.5 million). This includes structured data from music service catalogs, but more importantly crawled data from across the Web. Yahoo! Audio Search is, and will continue to be, the most comprehensive and - most importantly - open system for finding audio content of any type on the Web. Period.

Open is a key term, here. It means we will index everything we've crawled, regardless of file format or source. It also means we give everyone a voice: from the major music services with access to the newest and largest mainstream catalogs, to the smallest independent publisher. So, whether you're podcasting, listening to mainstream or independent music, finding newscasts or interviews, or sampling sound effects, you're going to find it through Yahoo! Audio Search, and we're going to keep on scouring for you.

More Music?

We've started off by hitting some key categories of audio content, and tried to tie in the most relevant information to make them searchable. Clearly, music has to be addressed in any audio search system. Yahoo! already has a world-class music destination with Yahoo! Music, and just recently announced its new on-demand service and client, Yahoo! Music Unlimited and the Yahoo! Music Engine, respectively (which are both worth a look, if you haven't already!). So why add Audio Search? Currently the situation with music services is that no one service will have everything a user may want --- no one has every song, podcast, and audio file in the universe. So, while we firmly believe in our own products (which are mighty comprehensive), with search in particular we know it's important to objectively give users the tools to find what they want, and if that means finding content that exists on someone else's service, so be it. We've still provided a valuable service to our users. Playing the Long Tail Audio Search is performing a key function here: we're giving insight into all audio content with an objective lens, from catalogs of music services, to the largest catalog of all - and perhaps the most important - the Web. We've also extended our Media RSS syndication program to include our audio index to help improve the timeliness and depth of our tail content. Why? Because even with the new music services coming online, there are still artists out there who have not signed with a major label or service, and who are trying to find an audience and get some momentum. By tying our Web crawled index and our mRSS inclusion with our structured catalog data, users can find what they want and everyone is going to get heard.

What's Next? Clearly, this Beta we've launched is only a first step, but a very important one towards fulfilling the overall vision of Yahoo! Search; there's a lot of audio out there and a lot of new ways to FUSE it, (find, use, share, and expand). From indexing radio streams, to applying new and unique licenses around new content (please explore Creative Commons), to allowing users to create and share playlists (we're pretty excited about . XSPF) - to many more things we cannot divulge ;-) - you're going to be seeing a lot innovation coming out of Audio Search. (Of course, there will also be some tuning of the system we've just launched, so please, please keep sending us feedback and keep discussing.)

Give us a whirl and see what we can find for you. But maybe more importantly, get your microphones out and lay down your rants (or "opinions" ;-) Plug in your guitars and strum a few bars. Crank the amps to 11, and ... hit record. Post it, feed it to us, and most importantly, search us. Yahoo! Audio Search has started listening because you've got something to say. Learn more about Yahoo! Audio Search here.

Ethan Fassett
Product Manager, Audio Search


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August 02, 2005

Announcing The Yahoo! Publisher Network Self-Serve Beta

You may have heard a few rumors over the past few months about Yahoo! developing more solutions for small- and medium-sized publishers. Well, those rumors are true, and we're 100% committed to living up to them.

I'm proud to announce today that Yahoo! has launched a beta network in the U.S. for small- and medium-sized publishers. Currently available through invitation only, as Yahoo! tests and refines the new platform, small- and medium-sized publishers can easily sign up online and access new revenue sources and enhanced Yahoo! content through our new self-serve platform. Our goal is to extend the beta to more publishers by the end of the year.

We spoke to many Web publishers throughout our alpha phase to get a sense of what you want out of a publishing platform. Several things became clear: In addition to the obvious -- competitive revenue opportunities - you expressed a desire for more ways to enhance the content of your sites and connect with your users. You also indicated that you'd like more control - not only over how ads appear, but also over what types of ads appear on their sites. In addition, the publishers we spoke to expressed a need for more accessible customer service.

We heard those requests, and we've built a beta product that addresses those needs. Our new self-serve platform will offer publishers new sources of revenue, starting with our Content Match contextual advertising product, and one-stop access to unique Yahoo! products, such as "Add to My Yahoo!" buttons and Yahoo!'s Y!Q beta. The Yahoo! Publisher Network self-serve beta will also offer phone and email customer service and in the coming weeks, will feature ad targeting capabilities to publishers. And that's just the beginning. Down the road look for more opportunities through the self-serve platform that draw from other types of Yahoo! content (Think: Web search, "Add to My Web" buttons, RSS advertising, shopping...).

As we gather feedback from our initial beta phase, we'll further shape and refine our new products and services to bring to the entire global publishing community. We've already received a lot of great feedback from you, and hope that you'll continue to send us your questions, ideas and "wish lists." We hope all of our publishers, advertisers and users find the Yahoo! Publisher Network as valuable as we think it is and we can't wait to hear your comments.

For more information on the Yahoo! Publisher Network, click here.

Will Johnson
Vice President & General Manager, Yahoo! Publisher Network Self-Serve Beta


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Use Yahoo! Shopping Data on Your Site

We're excited to announce the Yahoo! Shopping API, a new product that enables Web site owners and software developers to use Yahoo! comparison shopping data in their sites and applications.

Using the Shopping API, developers can create applications that search the Yahoo! database of millions of products and thousands of merchants, displaying prices and enabling searches in new and innovative ways.

With the Product Search API, you can search by keyword; limit your search to a specific merchant, price range or product category, and filter merchants according to their Yahoo! User ratings.

The Price Comparison Grid API gives developers access to millions of products offered by multiple merchants, returning base price, tax and shipping info and total price (based on zip code).

If you're a software developer, you can get the all the information on using the Shopping API on the Yahoo! Developer Network site. If you're a user of Yahoo! Shopping and you want to see how third parties are connecting with Yahoo! Shopping, stay tuned. We'll report back soon with examples of applications and sites that use Yahoo! Shopping data.

Jeffrey McManus
Director, Yahoo! Developer Network


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August 01, 2005

Interestingness and Clustering

Over on the FlickrBlog, I just posted about some cool new features which help you surf through the giant waves of photos that are getting uploaded to Flickr: 'interestingness', a way of discovering what Flickr users are paying attention to -- and therefore, because our users have such good taste, what's good :) -- and 'clustering' a way of delving deeper into tags you're interested in. It's easier to show than to tell, so here are some examples: love, terror, nose, bush, cameraphone.

Both interestingness and clustering rely a lot on what people are doing, whether it's with the photos they like, or the tags they are using. You can think about it as people-powered searching. Check it out on Flickr's new explore page (or read more on the Flickr blog).

Stewart Butterfield


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