John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Yahoo: Testing a More Google-Like Search Experience

yhoogleYahoo’s search advertising partnership with Microsoft and its embrace of Bing don’t mean the company has given up on its search business. During a presentation at its headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., Monday, Yahoo (YHOO) unveiled a number of new features in its search product that show the company is intent on competing with its new partner in the only way it can–by mimicking the features of Microsoft’s (MSFT) new Bing search engine, and Google’s (GOOG) search engine as well

Among the enhancements to Yahoo’s search page design–the features that, in the company’s words, “exemplify how Yahoo! is continuing to innovate in search technology and the user experience”–are the following:

  • a unified, Bing-like design
  • an enhanced search assistant
  • the ability to play video within search results
  • a set of filters that allow users to refine their searches based on prior queries or follow-on searches of other sites like YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (click on image below to enlarge).

yahoo

“The Web is huge, billions of pages, millions and millions of sites and domains,” explained Larry Cornett, Yahoo’s VP of search products and design. “You do not care about all of it. We are bringing front and center the features that are going to make it easier and safer to search.”

Which is all well and good. But isn’t that exactly what Google and Microsoft claim to be doing as well? Doesn’t everyone have a search assistant these days? Doesn’t Microsoft’s Bing already offer in-line video viewing in its search results? (Google once did as well, but disabled the feature over performance issues.) And aren’t Yahoo’s filters basically another version of Google’s “Show More Results” feature? They certainly appear to be.

So these things aren’t true innovations; rather, they’re innovations of the new-to-Yahoo sort. They’re table stakes at a search game that Yahoo has already lost. So “bringing front and center the features that are going to make it easier and safer to search” doesn’t really mean much when they’re already front and center in market-leading offerings, as Danny Sullivan notes over at Search Engine Land.

“There are certainly some aspects that are becoming commoditized in the foundation in search,” Cornett said. “You can either overwhelm people and give them millions and millions of results or show them what they care about the most. That is exactly where we’re going to continue, building a search experience that understands what they’re looking for.”

That sounds great–except it’s not anything different from what Microsoft says. And if Google doesn’t say it, that’s because searchers are voting with their actual search activity that Google’s already doing it. In addition, while Cornett suggested that Yahoo is somehow spending huge amounts of time and money coming up with a better personalized experience over competitors, the fact remains that Google has long offered personalized results that outdistance Yahoo.


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— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald