Yahoo: We’re Still in the Search Business

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Ever since Yahoo and Microsoft finally managed to do a deal that put Microsoft’s Bing search engine behind Yahoo’s search capabilities, there’s been a perception that Yahoo has given up competing in the Internet search arena, lashing it’s wagon to Bing in its fight with Google. Although Yahoo has made a few mutterings to the contrary, Yahoo is now apparently getting ready to take the gloves off: at a recent event at the company’s headquarters, Yahoo demonstrated new search features it plans to roll out, and previewed a bit of its long term strategy to keep it very much a player in Internet search.

Under the long-term Microsoft-Yahoo deal—which still needs regulatory approval—Yahoo will turn over back end search engine operations to Microsoft’s Bing…and that includes data centers and other facilities used to power Yahoo’s existing search engine services. But each company will continue to develop and promote its own front ends for those search services. Yahoo demonstrated a revamped search results page that integrates video and image results as well as real-time news and social media content from Twitter, with an eye towards presenting the most-relevant search results straight up. The complex layout of the page also attempts to prioritize results based on media type and perceived relevancy, rather than presenting a simple list of links and brief excerpts: the idea is to highlight what Yahoo believes to be the most relevant and interesting results; however, the format may actually hinder users in scanning quickly for information or understanding why results are being presented in a certain way.

Yahoo recently installed Shashi Seth as senior VP for search—Seth previously worked as a product lead for Google search and headed up monetization efforts at YouTube—and has started talking about ways it has recently improved its search tools by adding real-time content, extending real-time information and Search Assist features across a number of Yahoo properties. Although it has lost some market traction to Bing, Yahoo is still the number two search engine on the Internet—and that may put it in a position to significantly redefine searching if it can convince users to rely on its new and forthcoming features, rather than reverting to a simple list-of-links.

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