Amidst never-ending stories about "Yahoo! exiting the Search game," or "...stopping innovation in Search," I feel compelled to share why Yahoo! Search has always been and remains committed to changing the face of search – with adrenaline pumping and arms swinging.
As the lead of a skunkworks-esque group that focuses on radical new experiences beyond traditional search, I can tell you that Yahoo! is in the most exciting phase of its entire 16-year history. My view is that it's fight, not flight, for the company and there has never been a time where so many people have wanted to fight like today. Yahoo! Search has some product experiences that are so radically different, you'll sit back in your seat thinking, “what the &$%# just happened?”
Before we get into it, let's clear the air about the Microsoft Search Alliance deal. It was simple: instead of three different search engines spending millions of dollars in R&D and hardware crawling and indexing the entire Web – a corpus of data that grows faster than most competitors can keep up with – we decided to outsource the back-end services. The decision was easy. Focusing only on crawling, indexing, ranking and serving at web scale wasn't, and isn't, the way for Yahoo! to win the Search game. If we could have a provider that was on par or better than our technology, we could focus more attention and resources on the experience side of search. When fully implemented around the world, we stand to save significant sums in hardware and R&D and instead focus even more on delivering a stellar user experience: seems like a win-win to me.
So that's what we've been doing with great zest, cleaning up the experience, introducing new architectural feats, and setting the stage for some big swings in the pipeline – in line with our Search strategy of “Answers, Not Links.” With this cleanup effort we've not only stabilized our place in the market but we are steadily growing. Some of these initiatives, just in the past six months, include Search Direct, an innovative answers-as-you-type experience; our new, super clean look for Image Search results; and our recent enhancements to the Search results page.
Photo Caption: For Search Direct, we put real gusto into the focus of 'answers, not links' by surfacing answers and structured content directly into what I call the “Search Box of Awesome.”
What Search looks like to us over the next 18 months:
- From destination to companion: Access and convenience are two key components in the search game. In the next 18 months, Search will be a companion experience that gives you answers immediately and instantly without leaving the page you are on - effortlessly.
- From fragmented to seamless: Consistency and simplicity are two key components in the search game. Users are increasingly searching on multiple devices. In the next 18 months, your devices and platforms will be seamlessly connected, allowing you to start an experience on one device and continue effortlessly onto another, with simple access to any information on any other devices. Search will be evolving into a beautiful and consistent multi-modal experience that simply integrates into your everyday life.
- From more information to better information: Relevancy and depth are two key components in the search game. When you search for something -- say, Adirondack chairs -- do you really care that we returned 9,150,000 results? Probably not. In the next 18 months, Search will focus on a deep experience that gives you only what you want to know, taking into account your search history, click behavior, demographics, social graph, and browsing history to provide you with a 1:1 experience. It will tell you why it served you the results it did and allow you to pivot on a number of aspects to further tune the page. It will no longer be a search engine designed for the masses, it will be a search engine tailored just for you. Some call it a results page; I call it an intent satisfaction experience.
I can tell you, from the inside I see more focus on unifying our portfolio, fast-tracking big bets, truly innovative thinking, and a deep, aggressive hunger to not only fight, but to really go for the jugular. You can expect a different beast to emerge in the coming months.
Director of User Intent & Experiences, Yahoo! Search
Ethan is very proud to have worked at Yahoo! for the past two years as head of product for an experience group within Yahoo! Search. He has been in product and design for more than 10 years, and in search for the past six years, where he has done everything from founding startups to leading product & design for billion-dollar portfolios at Fortune 100 companies.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series entitled, “In My Own Words,” that will give Yahoo employees the opportunity to share their own stories about Yahoo!. Feel like yodeling your own? Post your Yahoo! story on your social networks using the hashtag #myYahoostory.