Yahoo! Pushes Search Results Customization to Users

Yahoo!’s SearchMonkey platform got a little more public today with the unveiling of the Search Gallery — the platform’s official application repository. The gallery has already been open to developers and curious bloggers for a couple of weeks, but Yahoo! is now pushing it to the public at large via a “Customize” drop down menu on all search results. In addition, starting today developers can share applications via external links even if they haven’t yet been approved for inclusion in the official gallery.

“This is the first phase of a larger plan to provide opportunities for viral distribution of SearchMonkey apps,” said Yahoo! Search Product Manager Amit Kumar on the Y! Search Blog. “We’re continuing to develop new ways to surface and share useful and high-performance applications in users’ search experience and more broadly on the web, so expect more in the near future.”

As of launch, the gallery contains 39 approved applications. These range from apps enhancing Yelp! and LinkedIn results to one that provides a code reference for Ruby related searches.

SearchMonkey has the potential to be very disruptive in the search space. It gives web developers the ability to enhance the display of search results without the ability to influence search rankings. Who better to know how to best display content than those who created it? Unfortunately, the search applications I tried out today mostly didn’t seem ready for primetime.

As you can see in the screenshot above, the Yelp! application that I installed didn’t really enhance search results beyond slapping a logo next to the URL. In theory, my search for the Petite Deli in San Francisco should have yielded a Yelp! result with the deli’s address, phone number, rating and links directly to user reviews and photos. The IMDB application (which admittedly appears not to have been created by IMDB) gave me connection errors, and the Last.fm app behaved similar to the Yelp! application for me — it enhanced nothing.

Did Yahoo! jump the gun on pushing the Search Gallery public? Or perhaps have their gallery approval standards been too low and these apps just haven’t been tested thoroughly enough? Or is this a local problem? Let us know your experiences with the new search apps in the comments below. Yahoo! will win no converts with applications that don’t work as advertised.

Edit: I eventually got some of the faulty apps to load after repeating my search a few times. As Greg in the comments below noted, this might be a caching issue. That’s still something that Yahoo! should deal with, as first impressions are often lasting impressions.

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