How Yahoo! Hopes to Regain It’s Footing in Search

MENAFN – Middle East North Africa . Financial Network News: Yahoo is trying to position itself as the leader in social media: Knight Ridder is out with a story today on Yahoo and how they are trying to position themselves as the leader of social media. For the story Mac Davis, a media professor at UC Berkeley, is interviewed and talks about the work he has been doing with Yahoo! at their new social media research lab in Berkeley.

“The concept is reshaping Yahoo’s view on Internet searching. Traditionally, search companies have striven to build the biggest index holding the largest number of Web pages, the idea being that Web searchers want access to the most information possible. But Yahoo’s focus has expanded to a “social search” concept. It allows people to search the subset of Web sites that friends and acquaintances have found interesting and annotated with their thoughts and comments.”

Certainly the acquisitions over the last year have a theme. And that theme is that human editors may in the end provide more relevancy in search.

I have written previously on the superiority of Flickr’s image search rank and capabilities over Google and Yahoo!. When you integrate the human input of your friends (extremely valuable) into your search results this will produce superior relevancy.

“‘The opinions of my friends can be an important model for discovery,’ said Bradley Horowitz, Yahoo’s director of technology development. ‘We want to create a platform so that the knowledge in people’s heads flows onto the Web for the benefit of others.'”

Even more valuable than the opinion of your friends though very well may be the input of strangers. One begins to see a glimpse of this when looking at the power of Flickr’s interestingness and the relevancy of Delicious’ popular bookmarking links. It is through the tagging and ranking of others, strangers that you don’t know who view your work in a public space, that relevancy is most greatly enhanced.

As Yahoo begins to translate human tagging, ranking and the rating of data into search it will have something that Google does not. It only takes a slight amount of relevancy superiority to turn a mighty ship and this is what they are pining their hopes on.

While Google may or may not index more pages than Yahoo! in the end it will be providing the first two pages of search results that are most valuable. And human filters enhanced by algorithms will in the end do the best job at this. Yahoo! gets this — and expect to see them continue with a string of social networking acquisitions in 2006. The golden boy at the moment of course is the social news networking site Digg. Although Kevin Rose may not be interested in selling Digg to Yahoo!, an acquisition by Yahoo! would make tremendous sense both in terms of integrating user input into Yahoo! news stories as well as providing Digg the scale that they need to expand into something much larger than they already have become.

Of course Yahoo! has been and will need to continue to be very careful in the future not to upset the delicate balance of the social media and networking sites that they acquire. There is a natural tendency of mass groups to distrust large corporations. Yahoo! would be well served to ensure that their social labs maintain the autonomy needed to operate and that their key tinkerers are kept happy as examples for other companies that may follow in their footsteps into the Yahoo! fold.