Yahoo CTO Blake Irving introduced Yahoo’s challenge to Google Instant, “Search Direct,” at a press event today at the offices of Yahoo’s PR agency. (See Danny’s head to head comparison of Yahoo and Google Instant.) Before diving into the news, Irving first reviewed Yahoo’s strategy (presented as a periodic table).
Yahoo Instant Search Take Two
Irving then moved on to the main event: Search Direct. The simple way to describe it is as Yahoo’s version of Google’s Instant Search but with richer content. It’s intended to apply to both the PC and mobile experiences (including tablets).
Irving reminds the audience that Yahoo developed a version of Instant Search years before Google (though Google Instant isn’t named). He argues that this is “much richer, much faster” than . . . the leading brand (my words).
Irving reiterates that Yahoo “cares deeply” about search. The Search Alliance frees Yahoo up to innovate around the user experience. Here’s a image of Search Direct, which is live now.
Answers Not (Instant) Links
Head of Yahoo Search Shashi Seth says this will help totally change the landscape of search. This is “the first stop in that journey.” He launched into a rapid-fire demo of Search Direct, which provides the speed of Google Instant — Yahoo claims it’s faster — but with more information (“Answers”). It includes rich results in the expanded query box.
Seth boldly stated that this represents the “next generation of search.” He explained that Search Direct has been in testing with users since late last year. Users search more and are more engaged with Search Direct than conventional Yahoo search, according to Seth.
Here are some additional Search Direct screens provided by Yahoo:
Separate Index, Separate Algorithm
Shashi Seth told the group that this product is running a separate index (a “significantly smaller index” culled from the Microsoft index) and a separate algorithm. Everything is on Yahoo’s servers today.
There’s more to be explored around what Yahoo is doing technically (see this Yahoo blog post). But Seth briefly described this as Yahoo’s “real-time index,” which is being updated every 5-10 minutes.
Search Direct is operating in 15 main categories but will expand to “hundreds.” Seth told the audience that the structured data being presented will become increasingly “deep.” Today the categories available to Search Direct include: news, sports, movies, weather, local, celebrities and several others. But they will expand over the course of the year.
New Ad Opportunities
He also discussed advertising in/on Search Direct, which will be rolling out over the next few months. He said that sponsored and branded results will appear in the box as well.
Clearly this is going to be a search + display (including video) opportunity for Yahoo. It may also be exported to Yahoo partners and third party sites. Seth said that Yahoo wants to “allow other publishers to play in this ecosystem.” Seth said that Yahoo wants to syndicate the experience, “That product doesn’t exist today but we’re starting to think about it.”
He added that Search Direct will roll out across Yahoo in the next “couple of months.” Today it’s only available in the US but will be introduced into international markets later this year.
Blake Irving suggested that Yahoo owned patents on Instant Search. When questioned about whether Yahoo would seek to enforce patents or seek licensing revenue from Google he deferred to Yahoo’s “legal team.”
Below is a video that demos and explains Search Direct.