Yahoo! Research on Search

Opening keynote speaker at Gilbane‘s conference (Where Content Management Meets Social Media), Prabhakar Raghavan, Head of Research for Yahoo! was the former CTO of Verity (now part of Autonomy), and a scientist at IBM’s Almaden Labs. He now runs the labs for Yahoo! with 300 scientists around the world, and also heads the search strategy (web search) for the organization. He describes Yahoo!’s industry as search and advertising online.  I loved how he started with his conclusions —

Web search is no longer about document retrieval but a means for web-mediated goals. Search is a means to a goal, translated into 2.3 keyword searches.

And this leads to

A new breed of search experiences  which demands a search ecosystem combining content with intent.

He illustrated short cuts, deep links and enhanced result summaries of Yahoo! searches and since we’re in Boston used Legal Seafoods as an example.

Search: content vs. intent

Premise – people don’t want to search, people want to get tasks done.  His premise certainly fits with the information industry premise of librarians (who by the way love to search) that people want answers.

Raghavan talked about how the Net is moving from a web of pages to a web of objects – people, places, businesses, restaurants (and relationships with each other) – objects that have attributes. Intents are satisfied by juxtaposing objects and attributes. Search is no longer links, but objects with attributes.

Where do we get structured objects/attributes?

  • Machine learning techniques – classification/extraction(mechanically); scalable, but unreliable (80-90% reliable)
  • Building an open ecosystem – less scalable but reliable; provided publishers have incentives to contribute; demands opening up of search

What does open search mean? Rich abstracts with pictures and reviews.  Yahoo! uses a SearchMonkey Ecosystem where publishers provide rich structure and show in search that way; algorithms still rank results.  These enhanced results, for site owners, increases the quality of users, who are engaged, and fosters loyalty. The best intelligence is human intelligence, so people are the best contributors of rich structure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.