Spotted via Micro Persuasion and Digital Inspiration, Yahoo’s just launched Alpha (in beta version, natch). Both of the aforementioned blogs call Alpha a customized search engine similar to Google Custom Search Engine, but Alpha is really more of a multi-search tool that submits your query to multiple sources and aggregates results from all of them on one page.
By default, Yahoo web search results appear on the left, with drop down boxes on the right providing access to Flickr photos, Yahoo Answers, YouTube, Yahoo News, Wikipedia and Yahoo Sponsored results. You can remove any of these, or add any additional source (thus the customized comparison) provided it has an RSS feed. You can also easily change the layout of your Alpha page.
Rather than a true custom search engine, Alpha looks more like a Yahoo experiment to surface more of its deep content through a single query, similar to Google’s OneBox and Ask’s Smart Answers. I’ve got a request into Yahoo for more information and I’ll post an update when I’ve learned more.
Postscript: The Alpha Blog (which was blank when we looked yesterday), now says this was part of Yahoo7′s (Australia) Hack Day:
Like most Yahoo! offices around the world, Australia participates in Hack Day.
Yesterday, the Yahoo!7 Search team began testing a beta service called Alpha that was born out of pizza and furious coding.
Whilst aggregating feeds on one page is nothing new, we wanted to take a federated search concept one step further. With this beta, we have introduced personalisation elements that not only allow users to customise their view, but also to add their favourite search service (at least those who syndicate their search results via OpenSearch RSS).
We also decided to add a sharing element for logged in users of the site. Now, if you decide to share your personalised url with others, they can view and effectively use the search configuration you have developed.
We thought the idea was good enough to develop further into a public beta site and get a few ideas from the Australian search community at large.
And, yes, this is indeed a beta, so we expect there are many many improvements to make along the way, so be sure to tell us what you think!