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Yahoo! stays in search game with real-time results
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) March 23, 2011


Yahoo! on Wednesday began a US rollout of a feature that delivers real time Internet search results as quickly as people can time queries.

A test version of Search Direct will be added in coming months to all Yahoo! properties in the United States with search query boxes.

Search Direct predicts what people may be seeking with each letter typed in query boxes and then pops up an evolving set of results.

"It's not just a bunch of links," said Yahoo! chief product officer Blake Irving. "It is images and data you were looking for; much smarter and much faster."

The feature is also being crafted for smartphones and tablet computers.

"That is where users don't have the screen real estate, the time, or patience to dive into those links of results," Yahoo! search senior vice president Shashi Seth said as he demonstrated Search Direct.

"Our job from here on is to find the results for users as quickly as we can."

Irving said the move underscores the pioneering Internet firm's commitment to search despite a deal that has Microsoft's Bing engine doing the laborious job of gathering up-to-date website information that Yahoo! can mine.

"The search game is incredibly important to us, because we know it is what people want to engage in," Irving said.

With Microsoft doing the "heavy lifting" of scouring the Internet for information, Yahoo! can concentrate on tailoring content to the interests of its more than half billion users around the world, according to Irving.

Yahoo!'s share of the $12.7 billion US search ad market was 10.4 percent in 2010, a slip of about three percent from the prior year, according to industry tracking firm eMarketer.

The erosion was expected to continue, with eMarketer predicting that Yahoo!'s slice of the online ad pie would shrink to about eight percent this year.

Microsoft saw its share of US search ad revenue climb to 10.2 percent last year, according to eMarketer.

Google continued to rule the US search world last year, handling 71.4 percent of online queries, eMarketer figures indicated.

The Mountain View, California-based Internet giant last year introduced a Google Instant feature that serves up search results as people type, with software trying to anticipate query terms as they unfold.

Search Engine Land news blog editor-in-chief Danny Sullivan ran a side-by-side test and found that Direct Search "really wasn't delivering answers in a way that Google wasn't."

"I found that Google was giving me more answers than Yahoo!," Sullivan told AFP. "You aren't waiting for results for Google either, because you get them as you type."

Google Instant was built to be "lightning fast and blend seamlessly into search," according to the Internet search giant.

"We've been thrilled by the response from our users and are not surprised to see competitors explore similar directions," a Google spokesman said.

"At the end of the day, search is a very competitive space, and this benefits Internet users everywhere.

Seth contended that Search Direct was vastly different from Google Instant in that it provided "answers, not links."

He said the Google Instant metaphorically walks people to the library where information they want can be found while Direct gives them books they seek complete with pictures.

"If it's a faster path to the information, that could be very compelling," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.

"Their challenge is going to be getting people to try it, since we are creatures of habit," he continued.

The test version of Search Direct was limited to about 15 categories including movies, weather, travel, stocks, sports, and shopping.

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