Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Liveblog: Is Yahoo Still in Search? Indeed and It's Answers Not Links!

At least once a day, BoomTown gets a call from investors, analysts or other troublemaking types–you know who you are!–wondering why Yahoo is still plugging away in search.

With a declining market share in the arena and a search technology outsourcing deal with Microsoft, it’s not a bad question to ask.

But Yahoo begs to differ, introducing a new feature called Yahoo Search Direct at a press event in San Francisco today.

I liveblogged it, natch.

10:14 am: I was late, as per usual, but walked in just as the session was getting started.

Yahoo’s Chief Product Officer Blake Irving–looking fetching in a purple cashmere sweater–was talking about search.

He immediately turned it over to Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s head search dude, who immediately said: “Answers not links.”

Huh?

Actually, the product is pretty nifty, showing a lightning-speed box that shows more robust search results, although not unlike offerings from both Microsoft’s Bing and, of course, Google Instant.

While both have different takes, it is essentially a direction in which search brings in maps, photos, and–of course–advertising.

You can see a movie times example here (click to make the image larger):

10:23 am: Wait, it was over before it started! Whoa. No more bells and whistles?

And I still was enjoying Irving’s sweater and I wanted to touch it, but that would have been wrong.*

Seth then took questions from the reporters.

“We believe the next generation of search…people are looking for answers,” he said.

Very true, but perhaps not so much from Yahoo anymore.

Still, Yahoo Search Direct is a laudable try and it’s also nice to see some innovation from the long-troubled company.

“We are the premier digital media company,” said Seth, parroting a new description of Yahoo that the Silicon Valley company is now using since its recent sales meeting in San Antonio.

I asked a question about whether there is a dedicated app for the tablet of Yahoo Direct Search, which sources had also told me was shown to the troops in Texas.

Yep! It will be ready later this year.

I also asked about how much all this search innovation was costing compared to return on the investment.

No answers from either Irving or Seth.

Someone then asked if there would be a lift in market share from the feature.

That’s the plan, Stan!

10:41 am: More questions about the comparisons to Google Instant. Of course, it’s the same type of thing, in the contest to win the King of Relevancy crown among consumers.

Google Instant. Yahoo Search Direct. Quora. My dentist, who seems to know everything. In case you didn’t know, dentists are very erudite.

Seth noted that even though Yahoo has only 15 categories covered in Yahoo Search Direct, there will be hundreds to come, as well as more features on top of this feature.

Personally, I want my search delivered to me on a silver tray by a man in a purple cashmere sweater.

Speaking of purple, the demo dude kept putting Elizabeth Taylor into the query box, which depressed me. Violet eyes now closed forever.

That was the real story today.

As if to round out the event, someone asked whether critics are right about whether Yahoo should still be in search.

“We’re in this for good,” said Irving firmly.

“Look, we are not focused on the past,” added Seth, who was not here in this very room at a similar Yahoo search event years ago, when similar promises were made about search going away from a page of blue links. “I don’t even know if you’d call it search in three years.”

What would you call it then?

“Find,” joked Irving. And later, “It’s actually ‘found.’”

Apparently, Yahoo was lost and now is found via Yahoo Search Direct.

*By the way, I touched the sweater, which was–in fact, Blake–periwinkle, which is a twee version of purple.

(You can see a video interview I did with Seth after the demo here.)


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

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