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July 28, 2006

Weather Report – The New Yahoo! Search Crawler (Slurp) Is Here!

We launched a new Yahoo! Search Crawler, Yahoo! Slurp earlier this week. In addition to crawling the Internet faster, our new crawler is more efficient at visiting websites. As a result, site owners will notice as much as a 25% reduction in the number of requests and bandwidth consumed by the crawler.

While transitioning to the new crawler over the past few weeks, we had been running both crawlers in tandem. In some cases, this increased the frequency of Yahoo Search requests to websites. Now, with the new crawler in full production, we have turned off the old crawler and site owners should see a much lower crawl load without a loss in content coverage.

With this change of behavior in the crawler, you may see some shuffling of the pages that are included in the index and some changes in ranking as well.

Let us know what you observe through our feedback form, or if you have any technical issues with Slurp please contact support.

Thank you to everyone who helped us with this update!

David Simpson
Yahoo! Slurp Team

Priyank Garg
Yahoo! Search


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July 26, 2006

It’s Search. It’s Site Explorer. It’s Webzari!

As Searchblog readers may remember, we launched a tool called Site Explorer last year that you can use to see what pages from a site are indexed in the Yahoo! Search engine. You can also use Site Explorer to see page links.

The Site Explorer interface is based on the search results page experience and returns lists of pages that are indexed, and inlinks to your site, as you can see for the Searchblog.

But the Yahoo! Korea team took the basic functionality and gave it an entirely new look – as you can see in the Webzari for the Searchblog. Sorry I can’t translate it for you. Here’s one screenshot that explains partly what the tool is showing:

webzari screenshot.jpg

If you mouse over the planets in the Webzari, it gives you more information about the links and clicking on the planets returns the corresponding blog entry or other text. Try clicking around on it – even though you might not understand Korean, you’ll get the gist of things.

You can even save Webzari searches in My Hub, the Korean version of My Web.

Give Webzari a spin and leave us a comment to let us know what you think!

Arah Cho & Priyank Garg
Yahoo! Search


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July 25, 2006

Updated Yahoo! Search SDK Available

How time flies...

I just realized that it's been a while since I've made an appearance here. I've been spending more of my time on the Yahoo! Developer Network where a lot has been going on behind the scenes.

The developer network started roughly a year and a half ago with some search related web services and a BSD Licensed Software Development Kit (SDK). It quickly grew to encompass more and more of Yahoo! services and continues to do so.

Some of that behind the scenes work was an effort to update the SDK with newer libraries as well adding support for entirely new languages: Lua, for example. All told, the package now includes:

  • C#
  • Flash (ActionScript)
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • Lua
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • VB.NET
  • Widgets (JavaScript + XML)

If you'd like to track what's going with our APIs and services (search and more), check out the Yahoo! Developer Network and our blog.

Jeremy Zawodny
Yahoo! Developer Network


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July 21, 2006

Yahoo! For Good Scrum: A chat with Adrienne Bassett

Earlier this week, we spent some time catching up with Adrienne Bassett, an interaction designer on the Yahoo! Search team. Adrienne was one of five Yahoos that recently took a leave of absence to redesign the ONE.org website, the online arm of the ONE campaign, an organization founded by U2's Bono that's fighting global poverty and AIDS.

This project was the latest focus of the "Yahoo! for Good Scrum" initiative, an internal program that allows Yahoo! employees to take time off from their typical day jobs to apply their technical talents to projects with a social mission.

We asked Adrienne to share her experience working behind the scenes on this project.

Enjoy!

Adrienne, what exactly is a Scrum?

A scrum is basically a small team of people working on a project that's accomplished in short, concentrated bursts of activity with very specific goals. They can be pretty intense, although the ONE.org project was technically more like a charrette or a hack day, our team was working on a combination of design, usability and functionality problems all at once.

What was the team trying to accomplish with the redesign?

The ONE campaign is all about how people can incite change, one by one, to fight AIDS and poverty. The campaign has a huge global community of supporters, but it wasn't very visible with the previous website. Our goal was to change that, to capture and infuse community back into ONE.org. Also, to use the site for creating and growing awareness of the ONE campaign.

What were some of the ways that the team "infused community" into ONE.org?

Something we learned fairly quickly was that ONE campaign communities were already forming and thriving online, so part of our challenge was simply aggregating, organizing and supporting these communities via the ONE.org site. I'll give you a few examples:

Several ad hoc Yahoo! Groups have formed around the campaign in the last two years, with the new site, we're now showcasing these groups for supporters that might not have otherwise known about them, we're also providing easy-to-use tools and resources to encourage new group forming at a local level. ONE Groups are now surfacing in cities across the U.S. In fact we're using the Yahoo! Maps API to capture and track this growth via the "Where is One" page.

Another good example is the "Who is One" module on the front page. Often you see lists of names of people who have pledged their support for a cause, ONE.org has this too, but we wanted to take things a step further and enable people to share their faces as well. The Who is One module is a living and breathing photo mosaic of the people behind the ONE campaign. I think it adds an interesting dimension to the site. People are no longer just names on a list. You can see them. They can see you. It visually humanizes the campaign in a powerful new way.

There are several other examples I could point to, ranging from ways we've incorporated community education and learning via Yahoo! Answers, to a customized ONE toolbar, we've even created virtual ONE tees for people's Yahoo! avatars.

Tell us more about those avatar tees...

I think for the same reason people wear the white ONE wristbands in the real world as a sign of support, the avatar t-shirts are a way for people to share their support on the web. It's also simply a unique way to get people talking and connecting with each based on common interests.

Now you took three months off from your day job to work on this project. How tough was that?

At first it was difficult, leaving my team wasn't easy, but they were all very supportive which helped. As luck would have it, I was also between projects when this opportunity surfaced, so it was good timing for me. I've been with Yahoo! for a little over five years now, and it was a good chance for me to detach from my typical assignments, to wear a different hat and to work with a different purpose.

How did you get this entire project done in three months!?

We had an amazing team of people working on this project -- all day, everyday -- each of us with a unique skill set. It wasn't a big team, I was only one of five, but we shared a collective interest and passion for this project that was clear from the get-go. I also have to thank folks like Meg Garlinghouse and Geoff Ralston who were incredibly supportive and gave us very valuable feedback and guidance along the way.

Were there any significant challenges you had to overcome?

You mean other than getting this project from start to finish in three months!? Yeah, we hit a few bumps, nothing too significant, I think our biggest challenge had to do with ways we could balance user-created content, like comments, photos, etc., with some reasonable backend controls for moderation. There's a degree of risk the ONE.org website had to accept by enabling communities to connect and express their opinions and feelings freely via the site, our team tried to mitigate this risk by building and baking in some simple controls.

What would consider your big personal takeaway, now that it's complete?

I certainly feel invested (emotionally) in the ONE campaign, I feel pride with what we've accomplished, I'll continue to do as much as I can to support it. I also walk away with gratitude toward Yahoo! and my team for giving me the freedom and flexibility to work on such a cool assignment, I'm looking forward to returning and digging back into things.

I don't think anyone on our team will forget this experience. It was good for the mind and soul.


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July 18, 2006

Finding Home Values in Web Search

With all the recent discussion on where home prices are heading, we saw a great opportunity to improve our home valuation product on Yahoo! Real Estate. We’ve integrated our product with Zillow.com to provide users with free instant home value estimates and comparable home valuations for millions of homes in the U.S.

We also made it very easy to get your estimated home valuation: just go to Yahoo! Search and search for 'home values’. You can then refine your search with a Yahoo! Shortcut by entering any street address and city/state or ZIP to get the estimated value on Yahoo! Real Estate.

The home values page includes a map with your searched home, along with 10 comparables, and has a table showing each home’s Zestimate (estimated home value) and 1 week value change. We’re using Yahoo! Maps which provides satellite imagery in case you want to see what the neighborhood looks like. And we also provide a graph to show historical price trends and a link to Yahoo! Answers so you can ask questions on real estate and home values.

So go check your home’s value (or any home for that matter--your neighbor’s, your boss' ... you get the picture) and let us know what you think.

Fred Bao, Technical Yahoo!
Carlos Teran, Product Manager Yahoo! Real Estate
Yi Zhang, Engineering, Technical Yahoo!


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July 14, 2006

Weather Report: Yahoo! Search Index Update

If you're tuning back in to the Searchblog after watching the World Cup, then you’re just in time for our first weather report of the summer!

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.

Remember, we recently beefed up our online help and resources, and the best way to provide us with feedback is via the online form.

Please write in and let us know what you think.

Thanks!

Rajat Mukherjee
Yahoo! Search


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July 11, 2006

Live Search in Firefox 2.0

As you might remember, we recently launched Live Search on AlltheWeb. Live Search is a new Yahoo! Search technology that helps you find what you want faster, by suggesting search results instantaneously as you type.

Thanks to the extensibility of the just released Firefox 2.0 beta 1, you can now get Live Search suggestions from Yahoo! in the Firefox browser search box (top right corner – sometimes called the “Chrome” in industry speak).

As you type, Live Search gives you a drop-down list of suggestions to complete your query. And it’s lightning-fast. It’s like having a built-in mind reader in an environment where time is precious.

In addition to helping you find what you’re looking for faster, Live Search also shows you related search terms you might not have thought of but find useful. For example I typed nih and it shows what NIH stands for: National Institute of Health, but also “Not Invented Here”. Interesting.

nih-1.JPG

I find these suggestions to be extremely helpful. Live Search returns the queries I have in mind with fewer letters typed, and sometimes teaches me a thing or two.

Live Search is also useful for figuring out spelling mistakes. It can even predict whether I’m in the process of making a spelling error before I’m even done. Try “wethe” It shows weather (with the correct “a” between “w” and “e” before I type the final “r” of the word. Live Search also inlcudes Also Try and acronym exansion.

wethe-1.JPG

We’ve enjoyed working closely with Mozilla to add functionality to Firefox, including Toolbar and del.icio.us. We hope Live Search will be useful to you, and hope to bring you other ways to use Live Search in the future.

Live Search in Firefox 2.0 is available here in the US as well as in Japan, with more to come. You can download US versions of Firefox 2.0 for win, osx and linux, as well as win, linux and mac versions for Japan.

Please check it out and leave a comment here to let us know what you think.

Ralph Rabbat
Engineering Manager
Y! Search


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July 10, 2006

Yahoo! Travel Update: Trip Planner Goes GA

Thanks to the use and feedback of beta users over the past 9 months, Trip Planner from Yahoo! Travel is now ready for prime time. Today marks the general availability of the new service, along with many cool new features.

We introduced Trip Planner a few months ago - it’s a tool that simplifies the research, planning and sharing of trips online so that you can create a customized, printable take-along travel guide. It allows you to tag information found on Yahoo! Travel and the rest of the Web and bring it into one slick AJAX interface. You can choose to share your trip with anyone - from one friend to the whole world. If there is another user’s shared trip that you like, you can copy it and build from there instead of starting your travel planning process from scratch. The result of this online community sharing travel experiences is a living atlas of travel information for users to add and take from.

New Features Galore

  • My favorite new feature is the Trip Planner explore option where the top trip plans from thousands of destinations, as chosen by other Yahoo! users, are plotted on an interactive map using the new Yahoo! Maps AJAX API. You can pan and zoom to find the trip that’s right for you.

    travel1.JPG

  • The Trip Journal interface allows users to share their first-person, post-trip narrative, the good and the bad, with fellow travelers. The Trip Album within the Journal is fully connected with Flickr, so your photos can be displayed with just a few clicks.

    travel.JPG

  • Users have the ability to rate Trip Plans based on how helpful they are, and to bookmark their favorite trips for easy reference
  • Trips are connected to the user’s Yahoo! 360 profile so when you’re browsing for a trip you can get more info on the trip author
  • Trip items can be viewed in variety of formats including plotted on Satellite, Hybrid and Street Level maps
  • Recommendations from Yahoo! Travel Guides for hotels, things to do, restaurants, shopping and entertainment are automatically served up for users who want easily accessible information as they add new objects to their trip plans.

Starting from the Search Box
You’ll now also be able to connect with Yahoo! Trip Planner directly from Yahoo! Search. By entering your destination + the word “trips” (e.g. Atlanta trips or Las Vegas trips) you can link directly to the top community ranked Trip Plans for that destination in Yahoo! Trip Planner.

We hope you like what you see! Check it out and let us know what you think. You can post either here, or on the Yahoo! Trip Planner forum.

Vivek Hariharan
Yahoo! Trip Planner


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July 07, 2006

What's On ... The Yahoo! Home Page

We recently launched the new Yahoo! Video and the editors have been highlighting interesting stuff on the video home page as well as on their new blog. Now they are also featuring some of the best user videos on the homepage of Yahoo!. Talk about a fire hose! Thank goodness for video hosting.

Yesterday, Yahoo! Video editor Bethany del Lima took a moment to call out some of the Yahoo! Videos that were recently showcased on our homepage:

We are always looking for great content to feature, so upload your best clips and maybe they'll play someday on the Yahoo! home page!

Bethany & Tara


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Bono Asks Us To Do Some Thinking

It’s certainly not everyday, but sometimes we get to work with folks like Bono on special projects we hope will make a difference. Recently, a group of Yahoo! developers took some time off to work on the development of the new ONE.org site, Bono’s campaign to rally us, one by one, in the fight to end AIDS and extreme poverty. (Other times, we just enjoy getting in a few snaps around campus.)

Bono’s question to the Yahoo! community is what can we do to make poverty history?

I’m turning over the mic to Mr. Mario of the Yahoo! Answers blog, who points out that it’s not easy to think about the big questions, but though these problems seem massive, discussion leads to action:

Ending poverty on a global level is not going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean the effort shouldn’t be made at all. Bono and groups like ONE.org, are urging everyone to find ways to get the ball rolling in their own little corners of the world. Sometimes keeping the conversation going makes all the difference.

Identifying the sources of the problem may be the first step. Many cite trade regulations and corruption as key contributors to global poverty, and say that the duty to rectify these issues falls on the shoulders of established nations. The scarcity of natural resources, loss of ambition, and limited opportunity for growth also help contribute. Some believe that monetary assistance grants only help perpetuate the problem, while others examine biological and psychological theories behind the subculture of poverty.

So what can ordinary people do?

Head over to the Yahoo! Answers blog for the rest of Mario’s post, including some thoughtful solutions proposed by users. Then give it your best thought!

Tara Kirchner


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July 06, 2006

Is The Answer Outer Space?

On Tuesday, while most of us were enjoying the fireworks, the folks at Yahoo! Answers were busy working with Dr. Stephen Hawking – one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists and author of the surprise best-seller A Brief History of Time, along with holding many titles, degrees, posts and accolades - to ask a question on Yahoo!

Dr. Hawking’s question to the Yahoo! community is, how can the human race survive the next hundred years?

Apparently we have a lot to say on the matter, because in the first day alone, more than 15,000 answers were posted, and people were even blogging about their responses. I wonder if they know they could get a nifty Answers badge and then their responses show up automagically...

Anyway, you may have heard about Dr. Hawking recently – he’s been making headlines and stirring up blog chatter following a June 2006 appearance in China. Dr. Hawking discussed the need to colonize outer space as the only way for human kind to survive the next thousand years, and cited threats of nuclear technology and bioterrorism.

What’s more, Dr. Hawking is something of a pop culture phenomenon, inspiring Yahoo! Answers blog editor Mario Anima to pen this:

When I found out that Stephen Hawking was going to be asking the Answers community a question, I could hardly contain my excitement. Our weekly meetings sometimes derail into “wouldn’t it be cool if?” sessions, and Stephen Hawking is one name that consistently surfaces during these discussions.

Aside from being one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists, Stephen Hawking has also made some popular guest appearances on television – as a member of the Vice Presidential Action Rangers on Futurama, and as Lisa’s savior on The Simpsons.

If you haven’t checked out Answers yet, you might try reading through the many interesting responses to Dr. Hawking’s question. Or you may have begun to see some of the best of Answers in Yahoo! Search results, providing responses on all manner of topics from the profound to the mundane.

For example, as folks who know me can attest, I’ve lately been telling people about a time when I benefited from the answer to someone else’s question. A friend gave us a half a fresh abalone and I had no idea what to do with it. So I searched for fresh abalone, and there it was! A great best answer with everything I needed to know about cooking fresh abalone. Slice, tenderize, cook 20 seconds a side in a frying pan with butter and shallots. Do not overcook!

Benefiting from other people's answers via search is great, but participation is key, and you still have time to answer Dr. Hawking.


Tara Kirchner

PS – Check back on Answers on Friday, when U2’s Bono asks his big question!


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