Yahoo! says it will Continue to Innovate Search

In a conference yesterday, representatives from Yahoo gave a live demonstration to reporters and analysts of new features of their principal Web applications that they believe will attract new users. Included on their list were ways that Yahoo plans to improve search.

We were surprised when Bartz, Yahoo’s CEO said  “We Have Never Been a Search Company”. But ray of hope of Innovation at Yahoo! looks to be alive.

After Yahoo signed away its Search infrastructure to Microsoft in an historic deal late last month, which many perceive as Yahoo opening its floodgates to Bing. Yahoo share had dropped over this, but Microsoft is very +ve over the deal. In an effort to minimize the appearance of the deal having any impact on Yahoo’s search strategy, the company’s senior vice president for search, Prabhakar Raghaven, told reporters Yahoo can still innovate with regard to the experience users receive from search. Maintaining the search engine itself, however, was a battle Yahoo could no longer afford to fight.

“The back-end of search is a megawatt war, and that is what we are getting out of. We believe the battle has move beyond the back end; we want to fight the battle on the other end.”

The end that Yahoo is dealing with this week is the one that delivers users the feeling of success. Yesterday, the company demonstrated additions that it’s rolling out to its search pages in the coming days, which will include an enhanced left column alongside its search results. There, users can narrow down results to specific sites, including how-to site eHow, online retailer Amazon, and Wikipedia.

Another innovation being tested can perhaps be called “inclusive context,” for lack of a better phrase being offered by Yahoo itself. The context of successive searches can follow one of the same contexts implied by previous ones, if there are matching contexts. The user does not, in this case, have to put all his search terms into the same search each time. Thus, for example, a search for NFL followed by a successive search for Bears will give higher precedence to the Chicago football team than to the genus ursidae.

Users will be able to drill down through successive contexts by way of a “Related Concepts” bar that appears below the new related sites list. Thus, a search that starts with bears could pull up concept links to the species and the team. Bing has rolled out a similar feature, and has already received some praise for it.

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