Yahoo's search strategy: We're not fighting "the megawatt war"

Yahoo's search strategy: We're not fighting "the megawatt war"

Summary: At Yahoo's press event yesterday, there was some grilling about the new features in search and how much of that had to do with the long-anticipated search deal the company cut with Microsoft last month.If you'll recall, the 10-year pact between the two companies involved Microsoft powering Yahoo search and Yahoo becoming the sales force for Microsoft's premium properties.

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At Yahoo's press event yesterday, there was some grilling about the new features in search and how much of that had to do with the long-anticipated search deal the company cut with Microsoft last month.

If you'll recall, the 10-year pact between the two companies involved Microsoft powering Yahoo search and Yahoo becoming the sales force for Microsoft's premium properties. When they announced the deal, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the deal gave Bing the scale it needed to compete while Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said they would bring "boatlaods of value for our users and industry."

It's yet to be seen if Bing can make a dent in the search game. But, for Yahoo, yesterday's announcements about changes to search, Mail, Messenger and Mobile show just how the company that was once the crown jewel of Silicon Valley can, in fact, turn it around and make a comeback.

OK, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself there. But the fact of the matter is that Yahoo is doing some pretty interesting things with search - notably, the search results - that gives users reason to not only turn to Yahoo to find what they're looking for but to stick around for a while, too.

Prabhakar Raghavan, senior VP of Yahoo Labs and Search Strategy explained that the deal with Microsoft doesn't keep Yahoo from trying to differentiate itself as a search player that offers more, just as Microsoft can do the same with Bing. Yahoo's focus is no longer on the technology that powers search and trying to beat the competition with it - the "megawatt war," if you will. Instead, it wants to take that technology and channel it in such a way that users will want to come back to Yahoo every time they have a query. (See video below) At the press event, Raghavan said:

Let me just say that the agreement calls for Microsoft to supply us with algorithmic Web search results, images and video. Just as their front-end team is free to innovate on top of that layer, we will be free to innovate on top of that layer. So, it's not that it calls for any specific collaboration beyond that. In fact, I fully anticipate that our front-end experience will evolve differently from that of Bing... The way to think about it is the back end, what I call grabbing of billions of pages and traversing indexes to serve results, that's sort of the megawatt war and that's what we're getting out of it. So, we don't fight the megawatt war. What we want to compete on is the front end exp that has to do with what is the user trying to get done, what user intent signals do we have and how can we crate the use experience that makes that user happier when they use our metrics and we fully expect Bing will do the same.

The search demo yesterday really made me stop and think about how we use search and what we get back when we conduct a query. What I really liked about Yahoo's approach was that it took a real-life view of what real people are searching for. The left column - which provided links to related sites that could offer not just related, but relevant, information - was a good call by Yahoo.

Sure, Bing and Google had some of the same results but the differentiator in this case was the presentation. But is presentation enough?

Maybe. Remember: Yahoo used to be the crown jewel of Silicon Valley, the Internet's main search engine. But it grew beyond that, and suddenly the Web audience was impressed with the simplicity of this newcomer known as Google. Fast-forward years later and suddenly Yahoo had a big takeover target on its back and was being mocked as an Internet has-been while Google continued to grow, grow, grow.

I wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo - given the time and resources to focus on customer experience instead of back-end technology - gains some ground and starts building itself back up.

Stranger things have happened.

Also see: With Microsoft search deal Yahoo risks becoming AOL

Topics: CXO, Browser, Microsoft, Social Enterprise

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7 comments
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  • The perceived "war"

    This is the 3rd article I've read in a row from these 3 guys all having something to do with a "fight" or a "war".

    This is really getting old.

    Not everything needs to be a fight. Does it? I'm starting to think you guys have some real personal issues that the rest of us really don't want to put with.
    Narg
    • Right on!

      I agree! You took the words right out of my mouth man.
      mr.zachcoffman@...
  • what changes in Mail and Messenger?? i don't care about the search war.

    i just don't want M$'s grubby hands anywhere near my email account.

    :)
    .

    wessonjoe
  • RE: Yahoo's search strategy: We're not fighting

    I avoid Yahoo as much as I avoid Google.
    jfreedle2@...
  • I actually think the Yahoo strategy is very smart...

    and instead of doing "battle" on the "search engine" front, they can dedicate most of their efforts to providing the services that visitors to their website are looking for. After all, most users are not using the search engines and then sticking around for the user experience. But, with an approach that enhances the user experience, even if it's related to the results of a search, the users will stick around the website for a longer period of time, and, while they're at that site, the hope by Yahoo is, I suppose, that they'll explore some of the other services being offered by the site. I think that's pretty smart.

    Thus, Bing will just end up being a tool that just "gets" the users what they're looking for, and Yahoo then turns those results into a better user experience. Bing, would just be relegated to an "assistant process", just like browser is a tool which is used to present the data in a nice orderly format.

    So, essentially, Yahoo won't have to worry about updating or improving a search engine and they will free up all their resources towards providing a better user experience. Meanwhile, Google has to, by necessity, continue trying to stay ahead of all the other search engines out there, including Bing. Though Google has tried to diversity their product offerings, they are still almost exclusively dependent upon the search engine for their earnings. Yahoo has freed themselves from the search engine madness and has decided to concentrate on offering a wider variety of services.

    If Yahoo is successful with their new approach, then perhaps there will be others out there, such as AOL, who will follow suit and, will decide that Bing as a background service provider is the smart way to go.
    adornoe
  • RE: Yahoo's search strategy: We're not fighting

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