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September 29, 2005

Webmasters, tell us what we don’t know

Having been to a couple of Search Engine Strategies conferences, I realized how much you look to search engines for information on how your content is indexed by them. I’ve heard stories of elaborate scripts that scrape search engines, using ‘site:’, ‘link:’ and ‘linkdomain:’ queries to understand your content’s relationship to other pages on the web. Through these queries, Yahoo! provides unique information, but often there is more that you are looking for.

Today we are launching Site Explorer from Yahoo! Search, a webmaster tool we talked about at SES San Jose. WebmasterWorld and Search Engine Roundtable have been tracking it, and so have some folks on My Web. Currently, you can use Site Explorer to:

Site Explorer is geared towards your needs, providing 50 results by default, web services APIs, the ability to export the data to a TSV file for further analysis, as well as free submission for missing URLs.

Tell us what we don’t know. If you don’t find a URL that you expect to be in the index, use free submit. In case you hadn’t heard, we are also accepting lists of URLs, so you don’t have to provide us one URL at a time.

This is a starting set of features of what we hope becomes a truly valuable tool for you to interact with us. So please send us feedback, tell us how the product works for you, and let us know what else you’d like to see. Enjoy exploring, and tell us what you don’t find!

Priyank Garg
Product Manager, Yahoo! Search

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September 27, 2005

Desktop Search Goes Live!

A little over a month ago, our resident search guru, Reiner Kraft, blogged about contextual search with Toolbar, Messenger and Y!Q.  The idea of “searching without leaving the page you’re on” got us thinking; why not offer a simple and convenient way to search on the Web for more information about any topic, word or phrase in your desktop files and documents? As a result, we decided to make contextual web search part of Yahoo! Desktop Search

The next time you’re using YDS to search for e-mails, IM archives, contacts or documents, simply highlight some text within the preview pane and click the new “LiveWords” button  to start your search.  Selecting a word or phrase that you’d like to know more about will, as Reiner puts it, “automagically” present you with the most relevant results.

Thanks to your help and feedback, the latest version of Yahoo! Desktop Search is also no longer in Beta.  We’ve steadily been working on improving the core file, e-mail and document search capabilities and along the way we even managed to sneak in a new battery saver mode which defaults to index only when your PC is plugged in (Jeremy, we’re still listening).

Another round of thanks to all of our Beta testers and please keep that feedback coming…

Albert Lee
Sr. Product Manager
Yahoo! Search

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September 22, 2005

On the road to personalized audio: We're all ears…

The inaugural meeting of the Silicon Valley Search SIG was titled, "Audio Search: Selling Picks & Shovels at the Podcast Gold Rush." It was hosted at Yahoo! Sunnyvale, on Wed. 9/14, by SD Forum.

Don't' worry if you missed it. Very soon you'll be able to download the audio and listen to it at your leisure, using some of the tools we saw.

Here's an excerpt from the Search SIG's mission statement:

"…to offer a communication and collaboration platform to the Search ecosystem: search engines, marketers/advertisers, users and developers. Through a series of monthly events, the SIG will cover a large diversity of topics: from the latest developments in search to the needs of brands and advertisers, through the issues and key learnings of starting, funding, building, and exiting a search company."

For the opening session, venture capitalist and consummate Frenchman Jeff Clavier and Dave McClure, of simplyhired.com introduced the poderator. Elder statesman Doug Kaye of ITConversations was assisted by a cufflinked and well-coifed John Furrier of podtech.net, and the InfoTalk podcast. Doug was producing and freely distributing great niche audio content (interviews and discussion among technology thought leaders), long before the word podcast had even popped off the vine and onto the lips of entrepreneurs, long before the 2005 podcaster's summer of love, launched by iTunes 4.9 in late June.

Folks in the audience were keenly aware of the ascent of podcasting, the flow of funding to young companies, the rising flood of content. Many in the crowd were seeing familiar faces from past conferences or previous companies.

David Marks spoke about Loomia.com, his podcast and videocast startup where you can find good stuff via search, recommendations, and personalization--with a little help from a community of users who are building a metadata layer of tags and ratings.

Eric Rice, CEO of Audioblog.com, described his subscription publishing service that offers to help you "become a… Blogger. Pundit. Podcaster. Rockstar. In 5 Minutes. " For about $5 a month. In humorous enclosures tagged with sarcasm, Eric Rice's irreverent fervor for the podcast frontier reminded me of the spirit of the Onion mixed with a pinch of GeoCities.

Fashionably black-clad Ev Williams showed a working demo of Odeo, in beta, of course. Odeo makes it easy (and cool) to listen, sync, and create -- and explore the world of audio content via MP3. The Blogger.com founder is well-positioned to take his vision of publishing of, by, and for people to the ears of his peers.

Jeff Karnes of Yahoo! Search discussed the Yahoo! Audio Search beta , which indexes a vast range of audio content on the Internet, including obscure or hard-to-find music, podcasts, interviews, speeches, e-books, and more. Yahoo! Search continues to build on its FUSE mantra: find, use, share, expand. You can personalize your preferences and focus results on the audio service provider of your choice (e.g., garageband.com, iTunes, or Yahoo! Music Unlimited).

The after-panel questions from the audience were wide-ranging and thought-provoking, and the evening ended with a vocal and varied announcement session, in which people pitched their products and services.

P.S. You can find several online accounts of the event from guests and participants. Thanks to Jeff Clavier's Software Only blog for collecting them. Read more about it from Mike "Bitsplitter" Rowehl, Elisa Camahort, Ho John Lee, Miss Rogue (aka Tara Hunt), and Dorrian Porter.

Special thanks To Miss Rogue of HorsePigCow for aggregating the URLs of the 30-second spots.: StanleyMusic.org, YorZ.com, Podornot.com, VoiceIndigo.com, Truveo.com, and Feedblog.org. If we missed your media search or podcast-related announcement, please feel to add it here in a comment.

Havi Hoffman

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September 20, 2005

Fewer clicks, more answers...

These days, search has become such a fact of life, that everybody I talk to takes it completely for granted.

But it seems like every week I'm reminded why its so much fun working on a search engine that is used daily by millions of people, and most importantly by friends and neighbors and that lady in the store down the street. Take, for instance, last week ...

I was out for coffee at the local Starbucks when the guy ahead of us in the line had lost the piece of paper with directions to the restaurant he was meeting friends at ... and I was extremely happy to show him this:

So not only did it take me just one search to get the address and phone number, but now he has the listing and directions right on his cell phone ... :)

What was that? It is a new feature in our abstract generating algorithm that tries to guess the most used information about that page, and promotes it into the summaries for search results. Not only do we try to figure out the most used information on the page, but we also integrate relevant features from other parts of Yahoo!. For instance, in the example above, you can see that we have found Maps & Reviews on Yahoo! Local, and also found that Yahoo! Local can send the address and phone number to your mobile phone - so thats there too! But of course, its not always just content from Yahoo! - we also use content from the site itself if that's more relevant - try searching for Wal-Mart or 511 or FedEx ...

Whaddyathink? Go ahead! Try it out. And perhaps next time you need directions for that restaurant, or suddenly crave some ice-cream (or coffee), or want a quick look to see if you won the lottery, and maybe (just maybe) see if the lottery money somehow made it into your bank account Yahoo! Search might have the answer right there for you.

Kalpana Ravinarayanan
Product Manager, Yahooo! Search

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September 14, 2005

Instant Search Gives You Instant Answers

If search engines are so smart, why do they give you millions of results when you type in "boston weather"? Why even ten, for that matter? Why not just one? Or better yet, why not just tell me what the weather is?

There are some very good reasons why search engines don't normally return just a single result. Sometimes you really do want to see results from multiple sources in order to get to the answer you’re looking for. Also, different words can have different meanings, any of which could imply a different intent on the part of the searcher and therefore warrant different kinds of results.

But sometimes there is one really good answer to your search. And that’s what led us to develop Instant Search, which went into beta today on our next.yahoo.com site. As you type your search into the Instant Search box, it checks to see if there is a single, relevant answer for your query. If there is, that single result instantly appears on the page, just below the search box in a kind of "speech bubble". You don't even have to hit the Search button or the Enter key, and you don't have to sort through pages of results (though of course that option is still available to you).

Although interactive "Ajax" Web applications like this one are gaining in notoriety, they’re still far from mainstream. Instant Search represents an experience that’s different from what most of us expect from a search engine, so it takes a little getting used to. But once you start using it, it's hard to stop. For example, in the past I would typically hit Enter as soon as I finished typing in my search, but after using Instant Search I now find myself pausing to look for the "bubble". And when I use other search boxes and an instant result doesn't appear, I feel strangely disappointed. I want my bubble! (Fortunately, you can add Instant Search to the Yahoo! Search homepage found at search.yahoo.com. That way, it’s always at your fingertips.)

The best way to really understand Instant Search is to try it yourself. You can go there now and try some of these examples:

  • south beach diet (this one gives you three interesting results as you type)
  • 701 1st ave sunnyvale (Yahoo!'s address; try your own address too!)
  • san francisco giants scores (should be interesting to watch now that Barry's back)
  • time in copenhagen (in case you’re planning a trip)
  • katrina (Yahoo! News results are appearing because the hurricane is a top story right now)
  • ninjas (do you want real ultimate power? I’m not sure I do...)
  • convert 100 dollars to euros

Instant Search is still under development, so you can expect to see a few surprises along the way and some cool enhancements in the future, as well as answers to even more searches. But we wanted to share it with you as soon as we could and get your feedback.


What do you think?

Stephen Hood
Product Manager, Instant Search

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September 13, 2005

Be an Empowered (mobile) Shopper

On the heels of the release of Yahoo! Shopping APIs, we at Yahoo! Shopping have developed our own application based on those very web services. It's a great example of the innovation that can happen when building on our open APIs.

We're delighted to announce the availability of our new Shopping Search on Mobile. Yahoo! Shopping Search on Mobile (Beta) allows you to price compare product prices from your mobile phone, accessing our database of millions of offers.

Simply enter http://shopping.yahoo.com into your WAP 2.0-enabled browser, search for a product, and start comparing. Check your phone's user manual to see if it's WAP 2.0-enabled.

The Yahoo! Shopping APIs can be easily used by any developer. We're looking forward to many more cool and innovative sites and applications to be developed on top of these Web Services. Let us know if you've already developed something great, we'd love to see it.

Feel free to give us your feedback on this beta release. Get hacking!

Ben Strong,
Sr. Product Manager
Yahoo! Shopping

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September 06, 2005

Buzz Game's Back Baby

The Tech Buzz Game is back to test your mad prediction skillz for a second round. But first, many congratulations are in order to Rahulkul, Farmersckn and Zex, our first-round prize winners (subject to final verification), who walk away collectively with an Apple Mac Mini, Ipod, Ipod Shuffle, O'Reilly vouchers, and other swag, including the (not so) highly-coveted "I'm a Buzz Market Maven" t-shirt.

Round 2 features a number of new stocks, including Google Earth, iRobot Scooba, the decidedly droolworthy Kaleidescape, and a mini-concentration in open source technologies, including open source databases, licensing, and GUI toolkits.

If you're not familiar with the Tech Buzz Game, it's a fantasy prediction market for technology. Your goal is to predict what technologies people will be searching the web for in the future. You put your (fantasy) money where your mouth is by buying stock in the technologies you believe will be popular and selling stock in the technologies you think will flop.

Even if you never trade a single stock, the Buzz Game can be useful for tracking technology trends. For example, you can witness the rise of Google Maps, Ubuntu, and Ruby on Rails.You can even see that Gnutella/Limewire is the P2P system on the march, not BitTorrent. You can track your favorite stocks via the REST API.

The Tech Buzz Game is a joint effort between Yahoo! Research and O'Reilly Media. Markets in the game reflect a mix of companies, products, and technologies on O'Reilly's radar.

The game has two research goals: (1) to test whether the "wisdom of crowds" can foresee technology trends; and (2) to test out Yahoo! Research's new dynamic parimutuel exchange mechanism.

Registration is now open. Good luck and happy trading.

David Pennock & Bernard Mangold
Yahoo! Research

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