Kara Swisher

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Liveblogging the Yahoo Search "Chalk Talk": Kill the 10 Blue Links!

faster_pussycat_kill_kill

BoomTown liveblogged Yahoo’s “chalk talk” about search earlier today, which was an update of what the Internet giant is up to in the competitive space that includes Google and Microsoft.

Presenting at the event were Prabhakar Raghavan, head of Yahoo Labs and Yahoo Search Strategy; Larry Cornett, VP of Consumer Products; and Marc Davis, chief scientist of Yahoo Mobile.

At its HQ in Silicon Valley last week, Google put on a similar show-off, called “Searchology,” about its own latest search innovations.

And although they are clearly No. 1 and No. 2 in the search space, both Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) are bracing for the launch a major overhaul of the Microsoft’s (MSFT) search offering, which is expected next week at the D: All Things Digital conference and code-named “Kumo.”

11:45 a.m. PDT: A delightful lunch was offered to a room full of tech reporters at the San Francisco offices of Yahoo’s outside PR firm, Outcast Communications.

But all the munching was quickly swept aside by the aggressive tone of the speech to be delivered by the normally gentle-looking Yahoos.

Apparently, top Yahoo execs want to “kill the 10 blue links.”

Yipes!

“Nobody really wants to search,” said Raghavan, describing a broken consumer experience and how Yahoo wanted to fix it. This has been a bell he has been ringing from last fall, in fact.

But we all were soon deep in the weeds of tech, as he noted that Yahoo wanted to move from a “Web of pages to a Web of objects.”

It still sounded very, very Webby.

12:01 p.m.: Soon, Raghavan started to talk about Yahoo products, such as Build Your Own Search Service (BOSS), which he says has generated almost as many daily queries as Microsoft’s whole search offering.

Snap!

Next up was Cornett, who began talking about intent and how Yahoo was trying to weave what a consumer wants in with what is displayed.

That means “helping users accomplish that goal by connecting objects in the real world.”

He trotted out Yahoo’s Search Pad offering, which is simply a way for people to keep track of their searches online, instead of on a dopey scrap of paper that the dog eats.

Cornett also showed how embedded music, video and other structured data are inserted into mostly dull search results.

Yahoo, in other words, is going to know what we want and give it to us–even before we know we want it. Sounds like my mother!

12:15 p.m.: Cornett reeled off lots of stats about its SearchMonkey technology, which is a year old.

searchmonkey

There was a picture of a monkey with a birthday hat, natch! (See here!)

SearchMonkey, according to Yahoo, is a “framework for creating small applications that enhance Yahoo search results with additional data and structure.”

Cornett then invited up Facebook software engineer Alex Moskalyuk to talk about building apps with SearchMonkey.

Lots of tech talk that was actually incomprehensible to the reporters gathered, although they all scribbled away (I, at this juncture, chose to eat another sandwich).

Here is one line: “Originally used XPath extractor, switched entirely to hCard.”

Welcome to my world! It’s like some telephone guy talking apart a handset and explaining the guts of the device, when I am only interested in making a call.

12:23 p.m.: Next up: Matthew Hertz of Pipl.com, a people search engine built on Yahoo’s BOSS.

People search was, he said, a “deep Web challenge.” Indeed, there needs to be an easier way of finding out about a potential date online!

Actually, Pipl is a nice service and useful too, and Hertz is right that Pipl should not have to reinvent the search wheel to take advantage of all the data already available on big search services.

12:29 p.m.: Yahoo’s chief mobile geek Marc Davis was up, talking about “answers, not just links.”

Now they’re talking!

Actually, mobile is a key search arena with the increasing popularity of smart phones.

That means knowing everything from movie times to weather to flights to cheap gas prices nearby immediately.

Twittery humanity needs to know now!

Yahoo’s offering is called oneSearch. which is also a good product. It better be. “For many people in the world, their phone is the way to access” the Internet, said Davis.

12:40 p.m.: Now, the Yahoos summed up “What’s Next?”

Let’s review: Kill the blue links! Intent! Objects! Open! Mobile!

woo-hoo

Raghavan then gave me a great joke by using the term: WOO, which is Web of objects. Apparently, they go around Yahoo talking about getting to the WOO.

It sounded naughty and I liked it.

Time for Q&A!

A question was posed about how quickly Yahoo rolls out these technologies, which are often limited in “bucket tests” of smaller groups of users.

As soon as they can, of course.

Next question was about how WOO impacts online ads. “It takes us away from a marketplace of keywords to a marketplace of intent,” said Raghavan.

That means advertisers can eventually make better ads. Oh, joy.

Then a question about when links are appropriate and when rich search should prevail.

Well, it depends on the user!

Next, a question about the currently trendy “real-time” search–a magical power that the blogosphere has, in its infinite hype-osity, bestowed on Twitter.

Raghavan called it a “buzzword” and I agreed.

Cornett added, correctly, that it should be about precision and accuracy in search, as well as serving “fresh” data. Fresh was a diplomatic word for whatever the mostly useless tweets are yammering on about at any given moment, which are most pointless.

The next question was about how soon a lot of this cool rich search data gets to the masses. Answer: Some of it is in testing and some is live systemwide.

I then asked about whether Yahoo would shove out the bells and whistles if, say, Microsoft’s new search service has a lot of the same features.

Cornett noted that Yahoo will only roll out after testing showed good results.

In other words, Yahoo will kill (or drink) no blue links before their time!

More questions about rich data, with one that makes the point that Yahoo was originally known for “curation,” which was its original business as the Web’s first truly useful directory.

It was.

1:01 p.m.: Still more questions.

Someone asked the Yahoos to comment on a recent post on TechCrunch that said the company was not developing for BlackBerry and focusing intently on the iPhone from Apple (AAPL). An exaggeration, said Davis, which was a diplomatic way of saying the story was wrong.

Blackberry users can now relax.


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When AllThingsD began, we told readers we were aiming to present a fusion of new-media timeliness and energy with old-media standards for quality and ethics. And we hope you agree that we’ve done that.

— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post