Home Yahoo!: The Web’s Future Is Not In Search

Yahoo!: The Web’s Future Is Not In Search

At the Next Web conference in Amsterdam over the weekend, Tapan Bhat, the Yahoo! vice president of Front Doors, told attendees that search would not dominate the web in the future. “The future of the web is about personalization. Where search was dominant, now the web is about ‘me.’ It’s about weaving the web together in a way that is smart and personalized for the user,” he said.

Some see the remarks as evidence of Yahoo! throwing in the towel and admitting that Google has won the search wars. Asked to clarify his statement to the Times Online, Bhat said, “We’re not admitting defeat. Search still matters, but we need to be providing a wrapper around search to turn the info search offers up into something more useful.” So, what does that mean?

Interestingly, Google appears to have similar ideas. A couple of weeks ago, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt told the Financial Times that personalization was a key area of research for Google. “We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalization,” he said. “The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‚ÄòWhat shall I do tomorrow?‚Äô and ‚ÄòWhat job shall I take?‚Äô”

Both Google and Yahoo! are hoping to take data about user behavior aggregated from across their properties (think: search history, del.icio.us bookmarks, Flickr photos, Upcoming events, Answers questions, etc.) in order to learn more about what each user wants. The ultimate goal is to deliver a more personalized experience to the user.

Privacy fears aside, if Google and Yahoo! are right, and personalization is where the web is headed, then Google might be more vulnerable than anyone thinks. According to Compete, the stickiest site on the web — the one that demands most of our attention — is MySpace, followed by Yahoo! and eBay. Google is actually 5th (based on February 2007 numbers). Facebook, which was 8th in February according to Compete, is likely to make a big push as their new platform adds more useful applications for users, giving them less of a reason to ever leave the site.

Why is attention important? Because the more time you have to interact with users, the more chance you have to gather information about them. The more information you have about them, the more useful and personalized you can make your service and the better you can target advertising and capture a users’ ecommerce spending. If the web paradigm is indeed shifting from search to personalization, then it would appear that Yahoo! and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook might be in a better position to take advantage of that than Google.

What do you think? Is search dead? Is personalization the next big thing? Is this a tacit admission of defeat by Yahoo! or is it visionary foresight? Who is in the best position to dominate the personalized web?

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