Two weeks ago at SMX West, Yahoo! announced a new project code named "Search Monkey" that would enable content owners (and in some cases, searchers) to add rich content to search results. Today, Yahoo has released additional details about the program, which has not yet launched. The announcement describes how developers can provide Yahoo with this rich content about their sites by either including structured markup in their pages or by submitting structured feeds. In addition, Yahoo! is announcing a "developer ecosystem for search" so third-party developers can create "Enhanced Results" applications for the Yahoo! Search platform. (Developers can sign up for the program here.)
These applications can take advantage of structured data available in public APIs and the Yahoo! index. Yahoo will provide more details on this program at a developer launch party they’ll be holding in a few weeks.
What’s new from the announcement in late February? The basic announcement is the same: content owners can provide structured data to Yahoo for potential display in enhanced listings in search results, and developers can create applications that make use of this structured data. Until the program is launched, it will be difficult to assess exactly what it means for content owners and search marketing. But Yahoo has provided some details about how to expose structured data.
Amit Kumar, Product Lead for the open search platform, told me that Yahoo wants to cultivate the developer ecosystem and encourage more use of structured data. He said that a wealth of information can be uncovered this way, but that adoption of these types of technologies has been low because a killer application hasn’t existed to take advantage of them. Yahoo! thinks that search can be that killer application.
In general, Yahoo! is hoping to spread the use of semantic web standards by
supporting microformats, including:
- hCard (and see
hCard on Search
- hCalendar (and see
Search Engine Land)
They’ll also support some of the vocabulary of Dublin Core, Creative Commons, FOAF, GeoRSS, and MediaRSS, as well as RDFa, eRDF, and the OpenSearch specification.
Kumar said that they are looking to the community to evolve these standards and that they would love to extend support to the vocabulary that developers find most valuable. He said that the developer communities who use these standards are vocal and passionate, and Yahoo! is committed to supporting all of them to help them evolve.
Yahoo will also support submission of structured feeds for those who prefer not to expose their content on their pages.
Will this structured data be used in Yahoo web search beyond Search Monkey, such as to influence crawling or ranking? Not at the moment, although Kumar wouldn’t rule out the possibility for the future. I asked in particular about whether the hCard and hCalendar microformats would be used in local search, and he reiterated that for now, they would only be used for the Search Monkey enhanced listings.
Why is Yahoo opening up the platform for developers to both feed them information and create applications on top of that information? Kumar said that search has been a black box for too long and that needs to change. He said that search engines exist because of site owners and that search engines should acknowledge that and shift power back to those site owners. And if supporting open standards that expose structured data to all search engines causes Yahoo! to lose a competitive advantage because of that, then so be it.
Site owners, of course, would be more compelled to start making use of the semantic web if the search engines were planning to incorporate the data into web search. But the promise of a developer ecosystem that enables applications on top of the Yahoo! search platform is an intriguing idea. Until it launches though, it will be hard to fully assess.