Home Yahoo Search To Offer Abstracts of Search Results, Determine Intent

Yahoo Search To Offer Abstracts of Search Results, Determine Intent

Next year, Yahoo will introduce new technology to augment their Yahoo Search results: abstracts of key information alongside URLs. Instead of just offering a list of links, Yahoo’s search results will include machine-extracted information that is relevant to the URL returned. Sound familiar? The technology is very much like SearchMonkey, except for one thing: this time the technology is being built in-house and not by independent third-party developers.

SearchMonkey Goes In-House

“When you type in a search today, you get a list of URLs, and they are not very informative,” said Rajeev Rastogi, vice president of Yahoo Labs Bangalore, where the technology is being developed. The lab is working on automated information extraction which goes into URLs and extracts relevant information. For a hotel, the additional information returned may include an address, phone number, map to the hotel, and its rating. For products, you may get an image of the product, the name of the manufacturer, and the price.

At first, that sounds a lot like Google’s Universal Search which returns results from across the Google Search verticals (images, news, etc.) when performing a search at google.com. The difference is that the abstracted information will appear under the URLs listed in a fashion that’s very similar to Yahoo’s SearchMonkey experiment, a technology that allows independent developers to enhance their site’s appearance in the Yahoo search results. This is done by using semantic markup (microformats, RDF), standardized XML feeds, APIs (OpenSearch or other web services), and page extraction.

As great as SearchMonkey is (we included it in our top 10 semantic web products for 2008), not everyone is using it. Says Rastogi, “Clearly we don’t expect that everybody will adopt SearchMonkey, so this ‘rich results’ piece is our in-house effort to automate the information extraction for large classes of web sites.” In other words, Yahoo will “SearchMonkey up” the web sites for you.

New Technology Will Also Recognize Intent

In addition to changing the appearance of the results themselves, the new technology will also offer users help with refining their queries. How closely this aspect ot the technology will resemble Yahoo Glue is yet to be revealed, but it could have some similarities. What is clear, however, is that the feature will go further than current technologies like Yahoo’s Search Assist which auto-completes search queries as you type. Instead, the new technology will prompt users to narrow down their queries by recognizing user’s intent. In order to determine what that intent is, it will examine previous behavior like the user’s prior web searches, visits to various Yahoo web properties, and “other information.”

Although that mysterious “other information” cited in the PC World article makes us curious about privacy issues and tracking cookies, the idea is intriguing if you can get past the unsettling feeling that your search engine will get to know you a bit too well. We imagine this to be like an even smarter version of Google’s Auto-Correct feature, something that currently gives you the option to search on the correct spelling of a word instead of the misspelling you had typed in.

So, unlike Google, which simply asks you “Did you mean: porshe” (when you queried on the word “porsh”), Yahoo’s technology may, in theory, ask “Did you mean: porshe 911 turbo in blue?” That’s just freaky.

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