Yesterday I got a chance to debrief with two leaders of Yahoo’s search team (yes, I know how that sounds given the Bing deal, but bear with me here). Late last week Yahoo announced its intentions with regard to continuing its innovation in search, and I had noted the irony of such an announcement.
I think most of the industry has written off Yahoo as a search player, and for some good reason. It’s true the company has abandoned two key pieces of the search puzzle – indexing and search monetization. But it’s also true, as I noted in my coverage of the deal, that Yahoo is retaining its right to control the user interface to search, and it’s clear that’s what the company is now focusing on.
What I find fascinating about this is how clearly it positions Yahoo to compete, directly, with its partner Microsoft and Bing. More on this later today.
It feels a bit odd to be writing that headline – “Yahoo’s New Search” – given the company’s deal with Bing/Microsoft. But Yahoo seems intent on declaring its independence with regard to search, even as it sells its asset and audience away to its newfound partner.
Yahoo does retain, in the deal, the right to innovate on top of Bing results, and I guess that’s where this announcement is pointing – noting that Yahoo has been innovating in search UI and plans to continue to do so. I’m talking with the Yahoo folks next week and will have more on their plans then. But it strikes me as potentially conflicting to the deal for Yahoo to be innovating in UI on top of Bing, as one of Bing’s strengths is its innovation in UI….
As part of BingTweets, an FM/Microsoft promotion blending the two services, I was asked to opine on the idea of how we use the web to make decisions. My first post has been up for a while but I managed to lose track of time and forgot to let you all know about it. I wrote a piece called “Decisions are Never Easy – So Far” – and have already written a followup piece, though that one is yet to be published. (And yes, I’ve asked them to make that picture smaller. Migod.)
From the first post:
If what you are looking for is a hotel room, a plane ticket, or something else in the “head end” of search results, plenty of sites aggregate tons of results for you. But as soon as you go a bit down the tail – like my example for classic cars – search becomes a pivot point for an ongoing and often taxing decision process. The opportunity, I think, is to figure out a way to support that process down the tail – saving us time, clicks, and frustration along the way. I see two paths toward that goal: one is creating applications on top of “ten blue links” which help me organize and aggregate the knowledge I process while pursuing a search query, and the second is making my searches social, so I can share the process of learning and learn from those who have shared – not unlike Vannevar Bush’s “Memex” concept.
When the second piece is up, I’ll post an excerpt here as well.
“It’s a pretty fundamentally big change” Matt says. What I’d like to know is why and in response to what changes on the web. Of course, the major changes in how the web works are clear: Real Time Search.
In short, Google represents a remarkable achievement: the ability to query the static web. But it remains to be seen if it can shift into a new phase: querying the realtime web.
It’s inarguable that the web is shifting into a new time axis. Blogging was the first real indication of this, but blogging, while much faster than the traditional HTML-driven web, is, in the end, still the HTML-driven web.
Part and parcel to this shift is the web’s adoption of Flash/Silverlight/Ajax – a shift to assuming the web works in real time, like an application on your desktop. That makes it damn hard to index stuff, because pages are not static, they are created in real time in response to user demand. This is a new framework for how the web works, and if Google doesn’t respond to it, Google basically will become relegated to a card catalog archive of static HTML pages. No way will Google let that happen…
(By the way, one of the reasons I was impressed with Wowd was exactly because of its ability to, at scale, track a new signal in the web – the signal of what we are actually doing in real time…as opposed to the signal of the link…but more on that later.
Matt was asked if Caffeine was specifically about Real Time, and he was not totally specific about this but it’s pretty obvious it is all about this shift.
Oh, and Matt says it’s not because of Bing. In one way, I agree. But let’s be real. Microsoft and Yahoo did this deal because Yahoo alone could never sustain the infrastructure costs associated with indexing and processing the Real Time Web. So in truth, Google did this because it had to, just like Microsoft and Yahoo did what they did because they have to. If you want to play, you have to get the infrastructure right.
Also for Mashable, a story on Google’s “major revision” of its engine. I plan to dig into this one, as I sense it has a lot to do with crossing the infrastructure chasm to real time:
Secretly, they’ve been working on a new project:the next generation of Google Search. This isn’t just some minor upgrade, but an entire new infrastructure for the world’s largest search engine. In other words: it’s a new version of Google.
Yahoo was the original search destination, and a place folks first learned to “search” for stuff on the Web. As the original directory of things worth paying attention on the Web, Yahoo was – and remains for many – the definitive place to start a search query. And also, in the history of Yahoo, let us not forget the entire homepage was redesigned around search just three years ago.
Google yesterday announced it is adding more information to Google Maps:
“(We’ve added) icons and labels of prominent businesses and places of interest directly on the map itself. We’ve found it super useful for checking out what’s nearby a hotel we’ll be staying at, orienting ourselves, getting the feel for a neighborhood, or just browsing around for fun.“
Wait a minute, let me rewrite that for you, with a business model attached:
“(We’ve added) icons and labels of prominent businesses and places of interest directly on the map itself.We’ve found it super useful for leveraging our Adwords algorithm!“
There ya go! Actually, I think this is a great move by Google, and in line with the concept of AdWords being useful to the information ecosystem.
For instance, if you’re looking to check out Martha’s Vineyard, the hotels link up on the left might be a link you are actually interested in.
Flickr has upgraded its search, and I like the results. Funny how we are all talking about Yahoo ceding search to Microsoft, but we all forget there’s a lot of other search to be done on Yahoo – like Flickr search. I wonder who Flickr will be integrated into Bing, by the way? Anyway, from the post announcing the news:
Note the new “View” controls at the top of the page, these allow you to display the results in different sizes and formats. Both small and medium views have an ‘i’ icon on every thumbnail — click it to see more detailed information about a particular photo. We’re also doing some whiz bang stuff in the small view to take advantage of as much space as you have on your screen, just try resizing your browser to see.
On the right side of the page we try to provide a new perspective on your search. Based upon how our members are tagging their photos and participating in the Flickrverse, you’ll see links to the groups, photographers, tag clusters and places that are most closely related what you’re looking for. We hope these will occasionally provide a little extra inspiration for your search.
Lastly, we’re exposing simple summary information on the page as you refine your search.
In a statement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that “as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest.”