Home Yahoo! Search Turns 5, Has Tech to Show For It

Yahoo! Search Turns 5, Has Tech to Show For It

It was 5 years ago today that Yahoo! stopped using Google to power its searches and started using its own search technology, the company wrote today in a blog post. Everyone knows that things aren’t looking good for Yahoo! in business terms, and the company’s search and advertising market shares look even worse. But you know what deserves some celebration on this 5th birthday? The search team’s work on some really cool search related technologies.

Yahoo! Search Monkey, BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service) and Delicious are three big wins for the Yahoo! search team – even if no one has yet figured out how to turn them into money. That’s not the only reason why we’re all here on the web is it? Isn’t it largely for love of innovation? Yahoo! in general, including the search team, deserve applause for their embrace of innovation.

In the search team’s blog post about its birthday today, the three technologies listed above were highlighted, along with some other tools like the mobile OneSearch or SearchAssist – things we don’t really care about to be honest.


SearchMonkey is really exciting, though. It’s a way for site owners to add structured, dynamic data to their search results listings. It’s a semantic web play and if it succeeds it should make search results all over the web much more useful. Think movie ratings displayed automatically next to a Netflix page when you search for a movie title, for starters.

We’ve written about SearchMonkey a number of times, most importantly in this post about its genesis and this post about its role in the future of the company.


Yahoo! BOSS is another technology we find quite interesting. It’s a way to use the Yahoo! index of web pages and the varoom to make searches go, but to perform those searches and show results on your own web page. People use it to make topical search engines on a wide variety of sites, but there’s no better example of a great implementation than what TechCrunch has done with BOSS in their site search. A week ago today Yahoo announced that SearchMonkey markup will now be included in BOSS – enabling, in effect, custom semantic search engines powered by Yahoo! but on any website. That’s powerful stuff.


Those two innovations are big and ambitious but they are also quite new and unproven. The most solidly exciting project that Yahoo! Search has touched in the past 5 years? In our mind it’s social bookmarking service Delicious. Acquired at the end of 2005, Delicious is one of the most powerful apps on the web today. Really! We use it all day long, mostly for search. Several of the ways we use it are things we wouldn’t tell you about even if you pulled out our toenails, they are so useful. We will say, though, that Delicious is still the best way to track faint signals of interest by large groups of people on the web.

Founder Joshua Schachter, who joined Google last month, says Delicious would have been even more incredible had the clumsy ogres at Yahoo! not crushed it like a delicate kitten they wanted to but were unable to love properly.

If you’re not familiar with Delicious (but you’re still reading this far into this article?) you should check out CommonCraft’s video Social Bookmarking in Plain English.

So on the Search team’s 5th birthday we’ve got two huge technologies that were just born and one old, underdeveloped app that the founder says was suffocated by Yahoo. That’s what we’ve got to celebrate. But in this world of advertising obsessed boredom, walled gardens and half-baked services on the part of most major consumer tech vendors – these three technologies are really something to be thankful for! That’s not even mentioning Yahoo’s other properties that do so much to enrich our lives, like Flickr, Pipes and Upcoming.

Yes, Yahoo! – you may get teased all the time about your trouble turning mind blowing traffic into search share and money, but on this birthday of your own search technology – we think you deserve a lot of credit for recognizing and working on some really exciting search related tools and services.

People should stop giving you such a hard time about your problems, too. We’d love to see those critics pull off what you’ve already done, much less beat Google.

Disclaimer: The author is a member of the Yahoo! Product Advisory Council – which means I get to visit Yahoo! a few times a year, see new products under embargo and share good times and bad with some Yahoos over dinner. At least for as long as they put up with semi-snarky blog posts like this and keep inviting me back.

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