Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Yahoo! is alive and kicking!

In a recent posting I discussed the partnership between Yahoo! and Microsoft and wondered whether this might bring an end to Yahoo!'s innovate information retrieval work. Yesterday the Official Yahoo! Search Blog announced big changes to Yahoo! Search. Many of the these changes have been discussed in previous postings here (e.g. Search Assist, Search Pad, Search Monkey, etc.); however, Yahoo! have updated their search and results interface to make better use of these tools. As they state:
"[These changes] deliver a dynamic, compelling, and integrated experience that better understands what you are looking for so you can get things done quickly on the Web."
To us it means better integration of user query formation tools, better use of structured data on the Web (e.g. RDF data, metadata, etc.) to provide improved results and results browsing, and improved filtering tools, something which is nicely explained in their grand tour. According to their blog though, better integration of these innovations involved a serious overhaul of the Yahoo! Search technical architecture to make it run faster.
"Now, here's the best part: Rather than building this new experience on top of our existing front-end technology, our talented engineering and design teams rebuilt much of the foundational markup/CSS/JavaScript for the SRP design and core functionality completely from scratch. This allowed us to get rid of old cruft and take advantage of quite a few new techniques and best practices, reducing core page weight and render complexity in the process."
I sound like a sales officer for Yahoo!, but these improvements are really very good indeed and have to be experienced first hand. It's good to see that the intellectual capital of Yahoo! has not disappeared, and fingers-crossed it never will. True - these updates were probably already in the pipeline months before the partnership with Microsoft; but it at least demonstrates to Microsoft why it still has the upper hand in Web search.