Today, Yahoo! is providing a "limited preview" of a tool that enables developers to create SearchMonkey applications. Yahoo! CTO Ari Balogh will be unveiling the tool at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco today, and more details are available in the Yahoo! Search Blog. Yahoo! first announced SearchMonkey in February at SMX West, and followed up with more details in March. Yahoo! will hold a developer day on May 15th as a formal kickoff.
For now, you can sign up to be included in the preview.
Below, more about SearchMonkey and what’s available in the new developer tool.
SearchMonkey enables site owners and web developers to create two types of enhanced listings for their pages in Yahoo!’s search results. Generally, these enhanced results only appear for searchers who have opted in for that particular site. Google’s Subscribed Links program is somewhat similar, although Yahoo! told us that their program takes things a bit further as in some cases they’ll show these enhanced listings for all searchers.
You can create two types of results with SearchMonkey:
- Enhanced result: may provide a more descriptive title, additional navigational links below the description, and other meta data.
- Infobar: Retains the original title and description, but provides additional information below the result.
The tool and documentation announced today provide further details on Yahoo!’s desire to support the evolution of open standards on the web. When I talked to Yahoo! about this program in March, they stressed that with this program, they intend to encourage the evolution of the developer ecosystem in search. By supporting open standards and providing a "killer app" that gives site owners a reason to use those standards, they hope to help them spread throughout the web and spur innovation. I asked if they planned to use the information from the semantic web in their regular crawling and indexing process, and they told me that at least for now, their use of this additional meta data was limited to use with SearchMonkey.
The developer tool released today provides insight on Yahoo! plans to approach this goal. Their documentation is aimed at two audiences:
Site owners: they encourage site owners to use microformats and semantic web standards. By doing so, developers can more easily extract information from web sites and build SearchMonkey applications.
Web developers: they provide a framework for creating PHP applications that enhance search results.
So how does it work?
The Yahoo! Application Platform provides a wizard that guides the developer through the process of creating a presentation application. The application interfaces with a data service to obtain the additional meta data to include in the enhanced listing. Yahoo! provides a standard data service as well as a wizard to guide you in making your own. You can use either information from a page or web service for the custom data service.
Creating a Presentation Application
When you create a presentation application, you:
- Choose the type of enhanced listing you want to create (enhanced results or infobar).
- Indicate the URL pattern that you want the enhanced listing triggered for (for instance, you can enter a pattern such as *.searchengineland.com/* to trigger the enhancement for any searchengineland.com URL that appears in the results, or you can enter a pattern such as columns.searchengineland.com/yahoo to trigger the enhancement only for URLs in the yahoo folder of the columns subdomain of searchengineland.com).
- Choose the data service that provides the meta data for the enhanced listing (you can create a custom data service, described later in this article).
- Map the information from the data service to your presentation layer.
- Enter test URLs and review the test result to ensure it displays as you intend.
- Promote use of your enhanced listings on your site via a badge and apply for listing in the Yahoo! gallery. And don’t forget to have a banana!
Creating a Custom Data Service
When you create a custom data service that uses page information, you write an XSLT to extract meta data from the page.
When you use a web service, you call the API using DataRSS.
You can make the data services available to others in Yahoo!’s library and can apply to have your presentation applications available in the gallery.
The Future of the Web and Search?
How does this impact the future of the web and search? On first glance, it appears to be a strong move to advance the semantic web and the beginning of a whole new way to view search results beyond ten blue links. But at least for the short term, Yahoo! is taking things more slowly than that. Their plan seems to be to use the presentation applications that others create as a test of search quality compared to the current results. Will searchers choose to opt in to these enhanced listings? (With Google’s Subscribed Links, that answer seems to be no.) Will the additional meta data from the semantic web be useful or spammy? This may be a test to find that out.
One benefit of encouraging semantic web standards that appear on the page is that if this effort does indeed cause site owners to provide more meta data on their pages, then developers can create any applications they like with this data, and third parties (such as upstart search engines) may be able to use this data as well to try innovative and creative things. Time will tell if site owners will begin adopting these standards in greater numbers, if Yahoo! finds the data useful enough to include in standard search results, and if others on the web can create something new with the information.