Yahoo Recruits Dev Army With Open Search Move

Its stock price is in free fall and it still faces a potential takeover led by rogue investor Carl Icahn. However, Yahoo can still fire shots across the digital bows of Google and Microsoft; it is inviting third-party developers to use its search technology so they can build their own search engines.

Yahoo calls the new strategy “BOSS,” which stands for Build your Own Search Service. Developers will be able to use Yahoo search formulas and architecture to create search engines for niche markets. Imagine tailor-made search engines for specific business markets or even social/community Web sites, all using the strength of Yahoo’s back-end technology, and you have an idea how the company wants BOSS to rule the search industry.

“BOSS opens up the playing field for developers and companies to disrupt the search market, become principals in search and build new Web search experiences that offer more choice for users,” said Prabhakar Raghavan, chief strategist for Yahoo Search.

A More Relevant Search Experience

“The value of it is that it can tie searches more closely to content,” Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst for Forrester Research, told LinuxInsider. “If I’m reading a Web site that’s related to a vertical or social function, this actually lets me conduct searches related to that particular experience.”

Yahoo will allow outside developers leeway in how they present the search findings and how they rank the results. However, Yahoo still needs to see the results, which could be months away, before any competitive impact on Google or Microsoft’s MSN can be gauged.

“There’s no immediate traction today because it will take a while for other entities to innovate around this new tool set. But this is the beginning of the future of search,” VanBoskirk said.

A Way to Make Money?

Yahoo will eventually share advertising revenues with the new search engines. The company will also announce a monetization plan for BOSS over the next several months, so the strategy may not have any impact on the current situation involving Icahn’s attempts to restart negotiations with Microsoft by removing Yahoo’s board of directors.

However, Yahoo can use its time wisely in the meantime in battling MSN and Google, VanBoskirk noted. “Google has its arms around search and is trying desperately to own display media. MSN is trying to grow display media and it is trying to grow search business too. I think for Yahoo to beat those guys, they need a holistic strategy for their business — not just search but also their existing business around display media and some of their social media practices.”

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