Yahoo’s Semantic Search Still Available

July 3, 2008

In the firestorm of publicity burning through blogland, Yahoo’s semantic search system has been marginalized. I admit, the url is not the easiest to remember: The moniker Microsearch seems to be intended to tell the astute user that Yahoo processes microformat information. A microformat is a Web-based data formatting approach that seeks to re-use existing content as metadata.

The site is labeled a demonstration, and the Yahoo logo is visible in a funereal black, which I quite like. The service is called Microsearch. The system supports supports RDFa marked-up pages plus some other semantic formats. Yahoo says:

Microsearch is a richer search experience combining traditional search results with metadata extracted from web [sic] pages. At the moment your Yahoo! Search is enriched in three ways: [a] by showing ‘smart’ snippets that summarize the metadata inside the page and allow to take action without actually visiting the page; [b] by showing map and timeline views that aggregate metadata from various pages, [c] by showing pages related to the current result.

I had to dig a bit to find the explicit connection with the Semantic Web, but the site offers a version of semantic search. Yahoo includes a link to the Semantic Web page at the World Wide Web consortium.

Let’s look at the system. Yahoo provides some suggested queries, but I prefer my own.

My first query was “enterprise search”. The system returned the following result page:

ymicro ent search 01

The map was visually arresting, but it was irrelevant to the query and the result set. I looked at the results and was surprised to find Microsoft was the number two result. The other results were okay. The same query on Google returned more Microsoft links. My conclusion was that the “semantic” feature on Yahoo worked about as well as regular Google. The other conclusion I drew was that Microsoft is working hard to come up at the top of the results list for the word pair “enterprise search”. Too bad I don’t think of Microsoft and enterprise search as sector leaders.

My second query was for the phrase “Michael Lynch Autonomy”. Here’s what Microsearch displayed:

ymicro lynch

For this query, the map did not render. I assumed that the system would show me the location of Autonomy’s headquarters in the United Kingdom. Sigh. Microsearch is at version 1.4 on July 3, 2008, and whizzy features should be working. The results were stale. The top ranked hit was a 2006 interview. My recollection is that the Financial Times ran an essay by Mr. Lynch a few days ago. Alas, the system seems unable to factor time into its results ranking. News stories often carry time and date data, and News XML includes explicit tags for these data. I ran the same query on standard Google. Google returned the results set more quickly than Yahoo. Google’s results were poor. The first hit was to someone other than Autonomy’s Mike Lynch. The other hits were more stale than Yahoo’s. Autonomy may want to emulate Microsoft’s search engine optimization push.


The semantic features of Microsearch did not appear front and center. The mapping function did not work. Compared to Google, Yahoo performed as well as market leader Google. To be fair, Google’s results were not too good and Yahoo hit that benchmark.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Stephen Arnold, July 3, 2008


2 Responses to “Yahoo’s Semantic Search Still Available”

  1. Hakia to Accelerate Semantic Analysis of the Web : Beyond Search on July 10th, 2008 7:58 am

    […] system is shod with this url My write up about yr-bcn is here. One hopes the Hakia system raises the bar for Yahoo-based semantic efforts. It would be useful if […]

  2. Yahoo Cost Estimate : Beyond Search on July 11th, 2008 12:05 am

    […] My data suggest that Yahoo’s estimate is baloney. Over the years, Yahoo has accumulated search technologies; for example, Inktomi,, Stata Labs, and Yahoo’s acquisitions arrived with search systems, often pretty weak; for example,’s and’s. Yahoo has licensed third-party search tools such as InQuira’s question answering system. To top it off, Yahoo’s engineers have cooked up Mindset, which has some nice features, and the more recent semantic search system here. […]

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