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Yahoo! Lets Site Owners Be Their Own BOSS

by Susan Feldman, IDC

When Yahoo! rolled out Search Monkey (Phase I of its Open Search initiative) they gave site owners and developers the opportunity to enhance their search citations with more text, images, etc., when they are retrieved in a Yahoo! search. That helps site owners drive more traffic, and more properly focused traffic, to their sites. Phase II, BOSS (Build your Own Search Service), unveiled on July 10th, goes a step further. It recognizes that many Web site owners want to offer their users a selection of highly pertinent search results from the Web, mixed in with the site's own specialized content. BOSS gives developers the tools to do just that.

The barriers to full Web search are high. Massive amounts of hardware, search software and expertise are required to make Web search work. These systems must be prepared to crawl billions of documents and crunch millions of queries. The art of relevance ranking requires experience and constant attention to query logs as well as documents. That is one major reason why there have been so few challengers to the Yahoo!, MSN and Google in large scale Web search.

BOSS gives site owners access to the Web, news and image indices. Search results for unlimited queries are provided. The site owners can enhance queries, sift and filter them by topic, by community or social graph, or by demographic profiles of its users. They can provide specialized interfaces and tools on top of the search results, re-rank the results, and mix them with their own content. They can build communities around discussion topics or private interest groups.

The newly announced BOSS program will be rolled out first to a group of partners who have large scale search needs. Once this beta release has been tested, it will be opened to the Web community. More information on the program is available at http://developer.yahoo.com/boss. In addition, a number of universities have been given access to the indexes in order to conduct research. This type of data has been hard to come by in the past.

The next step will be to roll out an ad platform to accompany the other BOSS tools. Monetizing search results by matching ads to queries is also an art that demands a great deal of expertise. Within a vertical or specialized Web site, ad values should be high, since the audience is identifiable, and obviously interested in the topic. One would expect that the tools from Yahoo! for monetizing search will help site owners increase their share of the multibillion dollar online advertising market.

Needless to say, this move is not entirely altruistic, nor should it be. IDC's digital marketplace research has demonstrated that a strong affiliate network will, in the long run, save the major search engines from stagnation. More queries are already going to the specialized Web locations than are going through the major search engines. Helping the long tail of Web sites build their businesses and their advertising revenue streams will also increase the reach and the revenue for Yahoo! Paying attention to building that affiliate network could well change the balance of power in Web search. Yahoo!, by giving these tools to site owners, ties them more strongly to the Yahoo! ecosystem.



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