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Tech Guru @ WABC / Channel 7
Thursdays 6:45 a.m. (New York time)

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Sree's Thoughts on the New Yahoo Search
Thursday, April 10, 2003

So here's a twist to the search engine wars: the latest attempt to unseat Google as the current champion is by the original search engine, Yahoo. This week it unveiled a new search interface and a bold new way to search. So should you switch?

First some background. As you know, Yahoo ruled the roost for years until Google became the most popular search engine company. While Yahoo became an ever-larger portal - offering everything from shopping to Web hosting to maps to e-mail services, Google kept it simple: nothing but search. "Stickiness" - the amount of time a user stayed on your site - had been the most important measure until Google came along. So instead of forcing (some would say fooling) users into sticking around trying different services, Google tried another tack. Give people what they are looking for, send them away and then will come back because they know you are the best. This formula was so successful that Yahoo eventually signed a deal with the upstart, using Google results in its backend operations.

Having written off Yahoo's search engine- I hadn't done a Yahoo search in at least two years - I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the new revamped effort.

It's still evolving, but I can definitely see some strong benefits to the new Yahoo. The very features that caused it to downplay its search business - maps, yellow pages, shopping - are now being used in interesting new ways and have the made searches stronger.

When you visit search.yahoo.com, it's a delightfully uncluttered interface. Type in your query and you get results that, for now, are similar to Google's (in many cases ARE Google's). But what's different is the way it uses maps and yellow pages to help you find information faster and better than before. For example, if I typed in "10023 Starbucks" for the zipcode of the WABC studio, I first get a set of yellow pages listings of the nearest Starbucks, with maps. That's pretty useful. However, if I just type in "Starbucks," a bunch of sponsor listings push down Starbucks.com a full scroll, which is unfortunate.

For the couple of days I have used it, the Yahoo search does better with commerce-oriented searches than with general interest topics.

Yahoo has always been known for using human editors to work on the listings, which means that its results are often better edited and more understandable than other search engines that use only automated systems. This continues to be the case.

There's also a new product search that competes with Google's excellent Froogle service - you can try it out at products.yahoo.com.

I am not a fan yet of the news search function (not as broad as Google News).

There are several other features that are going to be rolled out in the weeks and months ahead. We will keep a close eye on these.

The bottom line: I will continue to use Google as my default search engine for now, but suddenly, it's a two-horse race.

Resources:
Yahoo Search
Google.com

Write to techguru@sree.net and let me know your thoughts.

 

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