Kara Swisher

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Yahoo Demos Cool Etch-a-Sketch Mobile Search App and New Search Dude Shashi

BoomTown will be hoofing it elsewhere today, so I am missing Yahoo’s search event, called SearchSpeak, at its Sunnyvale, Calif., campus this morning.

Thankfully, I was at the Silicon Valley Internet giant earlier this week, getting a grilling from CEO Carol Bartz, and was able to talk to both Prabhakar Raghavan, SVP of Yahoo Labs and Search Strategy, and new hire Shashi Seth, the company’s SVP of Search Products.

Seth came to Yahoo (YHOO) recently via a short stint at AOL (AOL), and before that, Cooliris and Google (GOOG).

Both talked about the items on today’s agenda–a six-months’ look back at Yahoo search innovations, its upcoming Olympics shortcut on the search page, and a new mobile search app that uses a kind of Etch-a-Sketch drawing technology–using fingers, not keywords–to help users find stuff.

While not quite ready for release, the app allows you to search by drawing a line or a circle around the area you want to search.

“There is still a lot of room for innovation inside of search and inside of these kinds of apps,” said Seth in an interview earlier this week in which he outlined again the recent Yahoo strategy that focuses more on context, location and relevant content than just search boxes.

Raghavan also noted that despite the pending outsourcing of search technology to Microsoft (MSFT) in the huge search and advertising deal Yahoo struck with the software giant, Yahoo could still compete in both user experience and relevance.

He had better be right, since new stats from comScore (SCOR) show continued declines for Yahoo in search, compared with gains for Microsoft’s Bing search service.

In any case, Yahoo presses on, and here is the blog Yahoo has posted about its progress in search, as well as a video on search:

Yahoo SearchSpeak from Yahoo Search on Vimeo.

Looking Back at Six Months of Yahoo! Search

The last six months have gone by in the blink of an eye for the Yahoo! Search team. Since the summer of 2009, we’ve launched an amazing amount of new improvements in Yahoo! Search to deliver a more personally relevant search experience. Now it’s even easier to find and explore what matters most to you. Here are some of the highlights:

All-new Yahoo! Search

On Sep 22, 2009, we launched a completely redesigned Yahoo! Search in multiple markets around the world. The new page design aligns the experience across our new Homepage, Mail, and the search results page. This dynamic and integrated experience better understands what you are looking for so you can get things done quickly on the Web.

By rebuilding much of the foundational code for the SRP (search results page) design and core functionality completely from scratch, we deliver a faster Search page with many exciting new features:

* SearchMonkey structured data: You can explore results from key sites and narrow results using different types of SearchMonkey structured data, making it easier to see richer results from an increasing number of sites.

* Search Scan, Safe Search, and Search Pad: You can quickly access search features that make people’s online lives safer and easier, including Search Scan/SafeSearch (which helps protect you from viruses, spyware, and spam while you search) and Search Pad, our note-taking and research application.

* Query assistance: We’ve extended our powerful query assistance into the left-hand column of the page to allow you to easily explore and discover concepts related to your query.

* Image and video search refiners: We also apply this same design framework to our Image and Video Search experiences, where the left-hand column provides powerful ways to explore the things you care about most; including travel destinations, music artists, movies, TV shows, and celebrities.

If you haven’t tried it yet, let us take you on our tour that explains all of the features we delivered with this new experience.

Structuring the Web

We launched Yahoo! SearchMonkey in May, 2008. Throughout 2009 we’ve continued to accelerate the adoption of structured data across the Web and empower developers to innovate in search. In May 2009, we shared with you the key milestones with Yahoo! Search BOSS and SearchMonkey; We have over 70 million enhanced SearchMonkey results viewed by users every day; we’ve also increased the adoption of RDFa structured data by 413 percent since October, 2008.

By August 2009, we had expanded our coverage for enhanced results to multiple structured object formats including Video, Documents, Games, Products, Local Businesses, Event, Discussions, and News.

Great Assistance across Yahoo!

In November 2009, we extended our Search Assist features from the Web search boxes to the search box at the top of nearly every property on Yahoo! The new features take you directly to the information you need, whether it is real-time stock quotes or movie trailers. This also includes enhanced search suggestions and ways to easily navigate to your Yahoo! property of choice.

Discover Breaking News on Yahoo!

Starting in November 2009, we began including relevant photos, videos, and tweets about a breaking news story within the Yahoo! News Shortcut on our Search results page.

Local Searches Made Easier

We’re focused on making it easier to search for local businesses. Starting in December 2009, we displayed more Yahoo! local business shortcuts when you search for a business, even if you don’t include your location in your query. We also began providing new functionality directly within the local shortcut to refine results by neighborhood or nearby city right on the search results page. This further enhances an already great shortcut that provides more of the information you care about most directly on the search results page, including ratings, reviews, photos, and directions.

Twitter in Web Search

In December 2009, we started integrating recent tweets from Twitter directly into our Web search results page when you search for buzzy topics. You can see tweets about newsy topics in the Yahoo! News shortcut. You can also see tweets about topics that may not be in news headlines on the bottom of the search results page.

Great Multimedia Search

Building on the great feedback we received, we added even more entertainment refiners within our Image and Video Search experiences. These new refiners help you explore your favorite TV shows and movies, celebrities, or the albums and songs from your favorites music artists.

By hooking into the “Web of Things,” we have created intelligent contextual refiners to narrow down your search intent intuitively.

Shashi Seth joins Yahoo! Search

Finally, a very exciting change for Yahoo! Search happened just last month when Shashi Seth joined us as the Senior Vice President for the Yahoo! Search Products team. We’re sure that Shashi will help us keep the ideas flowing as we continue to make Yahoo! Search better and incorporate Yahoo! Search into all Yahoo! products.

We’ve been working hard to help you find the information you want in one place when you use Yahoo! Search. We are focused on improving the Yahoo! Search experience, so check back often as we bring you more enhancements in the coming months.

Larry Cornett
Vice President, Consumer Products, Yahoo! Search

And here is a link to Yahoo’s blog on its Olympics search.

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