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April 28, 2006

Delivering flowers, delivering babies

Driving to work, I always notice the florist near highway 237, where a man stands outside waving an arrow-shaped "Flowers" sign. When I think of local businesses trying to attract new customers, I picture this florist. I also think of someone like my midwife, Olga Libova, who delivered my son. Her local business is all about babies. And she too wants an easy way to promote her services to prospective clients.

Being on-call to deliver babies means that she does not have a lot of time to spend on advertising…

High Visibility, Easy Set-up

As more small businesses became familiar with Yahoo! Local, they have asked for an easy way to place local ads that will drive foot-traffic to their stores, and phone calls to their services. As consumers of Yahoo! Local, they benefit from immediately seeing the phone numbers to the businesses listed in the natural search results, without having to click further.

And of course, those businesses also want to stand out from the crowd.

Introducing Local Featured Listings

Our team at Yahoo! Local has been working with people like Olga, as well as local real estate agents, florists and more. We created a product called Local Featured Listings, which introduces small businesses to online local advertising.

A Featured Listing is a top-of-page listing that is available at a flat, monthly rate starting at $29.95/month, depending on the business category and location. (A bottom-of-page listing is also available at a discount.) These limited advertising slots are available on a first come, first serve basis.

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With an easy sign-up, the small business selects their category, and chooses the local regions where they want to advertise.

A Local Featured Listing is a quick way to start reaching the online audience right in your neighborhood. The listing highlights the business telephone number and provides links to the website, a map and directions – which is exactly what consumers want.

Once these small businesses have tried Yahoo! Local, they can learn about the many different advertising products that Yahoo! offers.

That’s the news for now. We have much more to come for local residents and merchants alike. Let us know what you think, and stay tuned for more!

Aytek Çelik
Yahoo! Local Team


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April 27, 2006

Say "Hello" to my little friend

I'd like to introduce you to someone - or perhaps I should say "reintroduce" you, since you've probably known him for years. (Sure, he's had a little work done, but who among us couldn't use the help of a pixel-painting designer to freshen our look now and then?) This is the Babel Fish: mascot, star, and proprietor of the oldest free, on-line translation service on the web, babelfish.altavista.com.

babelfish

Today Babel Fish is hanging his shingle here at Yahoo!, debuting Yahoo! Babel Fish across our properties worldwide. For those of you new to Babel Fish, you can visit babelfish.yahoo.com and translate text or web pages across your choice of 38 language pairs, such as English => Korean, Dutch => French, and Greek => English. It's the same convenient, free, easy-to-use resource that people have relied on for years, and now we've added more features, such as:

  • Two more language pair choices: Simplified Chinese into Traditional Chinese, and Traditional Chinese into Simplified Chinese;
  • Yahoo! Search Translator Beta, currently available in Germany and in France, allowing users to translate queries and search for web pages, images, and videos in multiple languages simultaneously;
  • Tighter integration with Yahoo! services such as:
    • Yahoo! Search - With one click, use your text translation result to search the web
    • Yahoo! Toolbar - Add the Babel Fish button to your Yahoo! Toolbar to enable one-click translation of web pages
    • The Yahoo! network - links to Babel Fish from Search Shortcuts, the Yahoo! Services pages, and other pages in the network for easy access.

Raymond Flournoy
Linguistic Product Manager

drinkP.S. To help us celebrate the relaunch of Yahoo! Babel Fish, why not mix up a cocktail we’re calling "The Babbling Fish"!

The Babbling Fish

4 parts vodka
2 parts Blue Curaçao
1 part key lime juice
a spash of Midori (approximately 1/2 part)

Shake all of the above with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with brut champagne.

Decorate with a scoop of mango sorbet. Enjoy!

The color is a nice aquamarine and the champagne gives your mango fish some bubbles. And by selecting ingredients carefully you can enjoy some Russian (vodka), Dutch (Curaçao), Japanese (Midori), and French (champagne) flavors in one glass--all languages that we translate on Babel Fish!


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April 21, 2006

Weather Report: Yahoo! Search Index Update

We rolled out an index update last night. As usual, you may see some changes in ranking as well as some shuffling of the pages that are included in the index. Those who follow these weather updates may have noticed that they are occurring more frequently; this is the result of improvements to the indexing system.

Thank you all for your input and keep the feedback coming!

Priyank Garg
Product Manager
Yahoo! Search


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April 20, 2006

Mixing It Up with Yahoo! Research Berkeley

As those in the Bay Area may know, today marks the beginning of the 49th annual San Francisco International Film Festival, which shines a spotlight on great independent film projects from all over the world.

This year is a special one for us because the Festival features a web-based video remixer prototype created by Yahoo! Research Berkeley, in partnership with San Francisco Film Society and San Francisco State University Institute for Next Generation Internet.

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So, what is this thing? International Remix enables you to create your very own movie mashups. Go crazy with creativity and re-edit, remix and mash-up film selections from this year's festival into 1-minute remixes. You can then post your remixes to the site gallery for others to view and enjoy. But wait! There’s more. A selection of the best remixes will be screened at Edinburgh Castle (950 Geary Street in San Francisco) on Monday, April 24 at 10:00 pm, free. Seating is limited.

We want to especially thank all the directors -- from Brazil, Canada, England, Macedonia, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, and the United States -- who agreed to allow parts of their films to be sliced and diced by the world's remixers (that's you, us, anyone and everyone).

We've had fun flexing our media hacking muscles to build this research prototype over the past month and hope you’ll try it. Our team leader, Brian Williams, and his wife, had another baby right smack dab in the middle of development, so you could say we’ve experienced a couple of births as the same time. But what we're really excited about is seeing what remixes you come up with and what we can learn from you to further our research.

So, what are you waiting for? Here's your chance to be a film director and have your remix played on the big screen next Monday at the Edinburgh Castle. If you have any ideas, complaints, comments, feedback or just want to chat about the remixer, please let us know!


Happy remixing!

Jeannie Yang and Ryan Shaw
Yahoo! Research Berkeley

PS – for more, head on over to Ryan’s blog.


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April 19, 2006

Yahoo! Maps, Your Way

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week since we released global and satellite data on Yahoo! Maps. Thanks very much to all of you who are trying out the new beta version. We’re definitely listening and taking notes for the future, so please continue to send in or blog your feedback – good, bad and otherwise.

Folks have also noticed our Yahoo! Maps APIs. These are available for you to publish maps on your website, blog or homepage, free of charge. You can have dynamic and interactive Yahoo! Maps running in no time. All of our syndicated APIs offer the following features:

  • Fast loading global maps that are draggable, pannable, zoomable and customizable
  • 3 map views, Regular, Satellite and a Hybrid mode that blends the two
  • Built-in premium geo-coding, enter an address and go
  • Customizable overlays, interactive map markers (pushpins) and information windows
  • Easy to follow guides and a community dedicated to getting you up and running

Each API also has a bunch of cool features, so prepare to geek out:

Yahoo! Maps AJAX API

  • Support for custom overlays at YGeoPoints that move with the map or YCoordPoint coordinates that hover over the map allows you to easily place your own HTML elements on the map
  • Extension of our Overlay class including transition states for markers on the map, expand open/close, hide, unhide, change image and smart window border color control to name a few
  • Built in “add marker by address” functionality without the need to know your latitude/longitude
  • Create custom dynamic maps with XML data in GeoRSS format, we do all the geocoding for you
  • Upgraded pan & zoom controls and a new map Navigator widget
  • Integrated keyboard shortcuts
  • Extended supported events list, enhanced event handling now supports custom context and multiple callbacks registration, as well as YGeoPoint return for click type events
  • Enabled by default auto resize with % width/height container size definition
  • An advanced built-in logger to help you debug complex Maps implementations
  • Improved memory management that is nearly leak-free in all browsers

Yahoo! Maps Flash APIs

  • Available in 3 flavors: JS, Flash and Flex. Collect them all!
  • Easy drop-in code or components
  • Most methods including changing location, zoom level, map view type, adding widgets (Navigator, Satellite Control) and panning can be done with just a few lines of code
  • Improvements to panning and zooming
  • Simple overlays let you add dynamic data, including Live Traffic and Yahoo! Local Search results

Not sure where to start? Give the Simple API a try and see how easy it is to get started. Jeffrey from Yahoo! Developer Network even built a tool that can help you use Excel to build a map.

Whichever API you choose, please know that you will always get the same up to date and reliable service that powers Yahoo! Maps. Just this week, we made some additional data updates and made the maps easier to read when printed.

May all your map apps continue to flourish!

Mirek Grymuza
Chuck Freedman
Vince Maniago
Yahoo! Maps


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April 13, 2006

Getting Back to Business

Having recently returned from a small business event in New Orleans, we wanted to blog about our unique – and fulfilling - experience.

Katrina impacted as many as 200,000 small businesses in the greater New Orleans area and along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coasts. Being Louisiana natives, and knowing so many loved ones impacted by this terrible disaster, we wanted to find a meaningful way to help make a difference. Inspired by previous Yahoo! employee efforts to help address ongoing needs for the Gulf Coast’s recovery, we were confident we could support something specifically for the small business community.

We went to work on an event to give local entrepreneurs and small business advocates a ‘one stop shop’ for opening their businesses online. Soon, with the help of event co-chair and fellow Yahoo! Carol Lynn Martens, we earned the support of BellSouth and Solid Cactus (a website developer), along with the small business development centers of Louisiana and Mississippi. Of the 200 local entrepreneurs who attended the April 7 event, only a fraction of their businesses are currently back up and running. This was hardly surprising - we'd seen the empty streets with our own eyes and boarded-up windows and remaining debris all around New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area. A shortage of labor has caused stores to run with reduced hours and generated national attention. Even fast food restaurants are offering $12+ dollars and hour and several thousand dollar signing bonuses in order to attract much-needed labor.

In the morning, attendees of the New Orleans event sipped coffee as they shared their goals for the day: to learn about hosting and building a web site, implement e-commerce, and launch a sponsored search campaign (all provided by Yahoo! free of charge).

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Afternoon sessions concluded with bursts of excitement and high fives all around. The majority of attendees launched new or improved online presences -- like this one from Syble Fine Jewelry.

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We left New Orleans thankful that we helped a little- helped by taking the time to teach them how to rebuild online and helped to remind them that their entrepreneurial spirit is important to the recovery effort – and to their region.

David Filo (co-founder of Yahoo! of Lake Charles, LA) & Melissa Chaika Sobel (marketing manager, Yahoo! Small Business of Slidell, LA)


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April 12, 2006

Travel Searching Made Easier

It seems pretty obvious that, especially at this time of year, when the weather is changing and you’ve got summer vacation on the brain, travel is a big part of what people search for on the web. You want to figure out where to go and what to do – and there’s so much out there. People’s travel photos on Flickr, travel experiences on blogs, it just goes on, and the search box is where most of us start.

We ask a lot out of that one search box, and travel is a good example of our evolving search needs. You can get maps, weather, news and more directly from the search box, and now you’ll had direct access to flight and hotel pricing and availability via Yahoo! FareChase, a pioneer of travel search.

Yahoo! FareChase (which is now in general availability) is a travel search engine that searches across many airline sites like AA.com, hotel sites like Sheraton.com, and on-line travel agency websites such as Orbitz.com and Cheaptickets.com, to give searchers a comprehensive set of prices and availability for flights and hotel rooms that is available on the web. Now with a simple web search, you can see what’s available across multiple sites without a separate visit to each site. And, the new satellite imagery we just launched in maps is also available on Yahoo! FareChase. :-)

So how does this all work?

Let’s say you’re in California and you’re planning a trip to New York this spring. You type in “Flights to New York” into Yahoo! Search, and here’s what you see:

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If you are logged in, we pick up your location based on your user preference. What you see above are the best prices for flights to New York from your area. You can then add more information, such as travel dates, directly on the search engine results page to refine your search.

You can do the same for hotels using the keyword “compare”. Type in “Compare Las Vegas Hotels” into Yahoo! Search and you’ll see the best prices and dates for different hotel classes.

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If you were to click on the links above you’d get a map-centric hotel search view on Yahoo! FareChase, which will help you get a sense of where hotels are located, such as on the Strip.

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What else. You might want to check out other user’s travel plans who are considering staying at the same hotels as you from integration with the Trip Planner beta. This’ll help you get a sense of what other people think of the hotels you’re considering, and you might get some ideas for cool stuff to do on your trip.

Please give the feature a try and see how it works for you, we welcome your thoughts and comments below.

Fiona Lake Waslander
Yahoo! Travel


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April 11, 2006

Mo' Beta Maps

Today we added global satellite imagery to Yahoo! Maps beta. The new satellite imagery will help people visualize maps, driving directions, and local search, and is available across Yahoo! and to developers through our APIs.

image

Here are the highlights:

Comprehensive Nationwide Satellite Imagery Coverage
Wall-to-wall coverage within the lower 48 states in the US. We are going for the best coverage nationwide, from the streets of New York to every inch of Redding, CA.

Global Satellite Imagery
The product features global images at 15 meters per pixel (zoom level 5, medium resolution), which basically lets you find and see every city, town, and major land feature in the world at medium resolution.

Global Maps
We’re releasing maps and overlays at medium resolution for the whole world as well. This should help you view not only the suburbs of Bangkok, Thailand, but also help see the context of the imagery in hybrid mode.

APIs
The new imagery and global maps are available for API developers on the Yahoo! Developer Network. So whether you’re new to the world of mashups or an experienced hacker, there is no better time to show off what you can do.

Better Views
In addition to getting all the data we can, we’re processing the satellite imagery to make the visuals more aesthetically pleasing for users. We’re blending away seam lines and normalizing the color pallet to create a continuous plane of imagery.

That’s it for now. Let us know what you think, and expect more updates soon.

Thanks!

Michael Lawless and Vince Maniago
Yahoo! Maps


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April 07, 2006

Browsing Yahoo! Video Search by Source

Most people find videos on the web by typing keywords into a video search engine. As an editor for the Yahoo! Video Search home page, I often use the search engine in a slightly different way. When I'm looking for cool videos to feature, I usually don't have a specific query in mind. Instead, I just watch loads of random videos and keep track of the good ones. I need the ability to browse the index without having to target a specific query.

So I utilize a trick that I'd like to share.

The search syntax is: site:domain.com

This lets me browse what’s in the Yahoo! Video Search index from a specific site -- without limiting the search to a specific query.

For example, try: site:vsocial.com, site:break.com, site:grouper.com, site:putfile.com , and site:vimeo.com.

These searches will show you everything from each particular site that the Yahoo! Video Search engine has indexed. Keep in mind that the code won't work for every site you may try, but our coverage is increasing all the time.

Christopher Akhavan
Yahoo! Video Search Editor


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April 05, 2006

MyWeb Social Search Update

“Search, with a little help from your friends.” That's how we described MyWeb when it launched. The idea was to tap into the knowledge your friends collect as they search and bookmark the web, and include their saved links and pages when you search on Yahoo!

While the result is often more relevant search results, the quest for better search through people should involve more than just your friends. You may also want to tap into the expertise of people you may not know personally, but whose knowledge you respect – experts, celebrities, or just that guy who saves the most interesting stuff on remix.

Well, we’ve just updated MyWeb to make that easier. Now you can include the public bookmarks of any MyWeb user in your searches by adding them as a contact.

Read more on the My Web blog.

Thanks much!

Dave Rout, Zhichen Xu, Nathan Arnold, and Adrienne Bassett of the MyWeb team


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April 04, 2006

Showcasing Our Culture of Innovation, One Hack at a Time

In his email instructions for Yahoo! Hack Day participants, Chad Dickerson writes:

"Hack Day is ultimately 'by hackers, for hackers' whether you're an engineer, a PM, designer, surfer, editor. . . whatever! The rules of Hack Day are simple: Build something that can be taken from idea to working prototype in one day; At the end of the day, we will celebrate what you've done on Hack Day with demos of your hacks (and beer, of course); Participants should be ready to present demos at the end of the day QUICKLY!"

Technologist and author Eric Raymond explores the playful and profound meaning of hack "as ‘an appropriate application of ingenuity’. Whether the result is a... patchwork job or a carefully crafted work of art, you have to admire the cleverness that went into it."

It's been more than a week since the second Yahoo! Hack Day. I'm hardly the first to blog about the ingenuity and cleverness, not to mention energy, courage, and friendly spirit that pervaded the event. Chad organized Hack Day, and he also blogged about it, as did Ed, Matt, Beach, and JR, to name a few. So, I've been thinking about what I could say that you may not have read elsewhere.

This is especially challenging because I can't tell you just yet about the hacks themselves -- which is where the real magic of innovation is explicit and incontestable. (But stay tuned.) I can say that prizes were awarded in the following categories: best overall, and runner-up overall (a category the judges added because it was so hard to pick just one winner), best use of APIs, best user experience, most unexpected, and people's choice. Notably, the people's choice award went to the "most unexpected" hack, and it was a second-time win. Same hacker won "most unexpected" at the first hack day back in December - now that's what I call "exceeding expectations."

The judges, seated in the front row, were senior executives and thought leaders from around Yahoo!. The room was packed with people, food, and drink. I saw old friends and colleagues I hadn't seen in months. Another executive stood on a windowsill to see better from the back of the room. I heard presentations from Bangalore, Burbank, London, as well as Santa Clara. In the voices up at the podium, I heard shyness, bravado, humor, pride, and accents from places all over the world. Sometimes the back of the room buzzed with mini-conversations and it was difficult to hear. But always, the applause was heartfelt and the mood of the audience was supportive, attentive. Each presenter had 90 seconds to show their hack, and we were rooting for every demo and every team.

Hours passed. Food disappeared. There was a downpour, a rainbow, and then it got dark. Kegs of beer were empty. Jumbo trays of nachos and enchiladas were decimated. There were towering stacks of empty pizza boxes under the tables. At the end of over 90 presentations, the awards were announced. The winners returned to the front of the room and accepted their trophies with the ad lib wit and grace of geeky Oscar recipients. We laughed, we applauded. The mood was jubilant. Then it was the weekend, and we all went home.

Hack Day is a showcase - recognition and celebration - of grassroots engineering ingenuity that is happening every day now. The coding and the conversations have a life of their own that continues in email, in impromptu meetings, in weekly hack lunches. And that's what's makes it such a powerful idea. Things change. Features are released. I find myself thinking of Iron Chefs: not every dish succeeds, not every savory morsel makes it onto future menus. But the energy of competition + collaboration enhances culinary experience in mysterious ways. Some recipes are inedible, some are half-baked. The tasty ones are refined, remembered, and served again. So it is with Hack Day.

After the first hack day at Yahoo!, the Autos team began to incorporate the Hack Day experience into the evolution of their product, alongside the rigorous product development cycle that drives all our products. They built a process to support ongoing evaluation and implementation of hacks. In fact, they've already got a couple new hacks live on the site, and a few more are queued up and ready to go into production. But that's a blog post for another day.

Havi Hoffman
Yahoo!


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April 01, 2006

All Your Web 2.0 Are Belong To Us

We're in the midst of buying Dogg (a Web 2.0 cross between Digg and Dogster "Where Every Dog Has A Webpage"), and you know what? It's a lot of work. Buying up Web 2.0 companies here and there in piecemeal fashion gets old after a while.

It's a lot of work on our Corporate Development team, the Public Relations team, and really isn't that efficient. Plus, it just encourages VCs to pitch us the next "great" company in their portfolio, thereby creating even more work.

Man, the acquisition treadmill is tiring... And expensive!

So after some long discussions with Tim O'Reilly, Michael Arrington, and other Web 2.0 experts, we've decided to just buy Web 2.0.

All of it. All the people, the round cornered boxes, crazy business ideas, and pastel colors.

That's right, just like a trip to Costco, we're buying in bulk and expect to save a lot of cash.

Henceforth, "Yahoo!" will be synonymous with "Web 2.0."

We sincerely hope this will accelerate the move to Web 2.1 or even Web 3.0. This "Web 2.0" thing has gone on long enough.

(Oh, Tim. Sorry about having rename that conference.)


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