Yahoo: Chasing Google with Semantic Intent

May 20, 2009

Information Week’s story “Yahoo Aims to Redefine What It Means to Search” which you must read here brought a tear to the eye of the addled goose. Yahoo aimed its former IBM and Verity “big gun” at Googzilla and fired a shot into the buttocks of their Mountain View neighbors. Mr. Cliburn, the author of the Information Week story, offered:

As described by Raghavan, Yahoo is directing its search efforts toward assessing user intent. When a user types “Star Trek,” Raghavan said, he doesn’t want 10 million documents, he wants actors and show times.

Information Week approaches the yawning gap between Google and Yahoo in a kinder, gentler way. Thomas Claburn wrote:

it’s perhaps understandable why Yahoo might want to re-frame the debate. Given its lack of success challenging Google directly — Google’s April search share in the U.S. reached 64.2%, a 0.5 point gain, while Yahoo’s search share fell to 20.4%, a 0.1 point decline, according to ComScore — Yahoo wants to change the game.

How will Yahoo deliver its better mousetrap?

Yahoo is relying on its partners to feed it with structured data.

Google’s approach includes algorithmic methods, the programmable search engine methods (Ramanathan Guha), and user intent (Alon Halevy). Yahoo, on the other hand, wants Web site operators and other humans to do the heavy lifting.

Yahoo’s focus on user intent could lead to happier users, if Yahoo Search can guess user intent accurately. It could also help Yahoo make more money from advertising. “If we can divine the user’s intent, that’s obviously of great interest to advertisers,” said Raghavan.

Advertisers want eyeballs of buyers. Google delivers eyeballs in droves. One percent of two billion is a useful segment. Yahoo has struggled to: [a] deliver segments that make advertisers abandon Google’s big data method for the flawed Panama system, [b] monetize its hot, high traffic services like Flickr in an effective manner, and [c] put real flamethrowers on the GOOG’s hindquarters, which is what Yahoo has seen since mid 2003.

Yahoo will need divine intervention to close the gap with Google. More importantly, neither Google nor Yahoo have an answer to the surging popularity of Twitter, Facebook, and other real time search systems. I am watching the sky for an omen that Woden is arriving to help the Yahooligans. So far, no portents, just PR.

Stephen Arnold, May 20, 2009


One Response to “Yahoo: Chasing Google with Semantic Intent”

  1. Ben Stein on May 20th, 2009 3:07 am

    Interesting post Stephen!

    I believe detecting the intent is a key, and semantic analysis is the future of online advertising.
    If you’d like perform some independent testing, check out for detecting the main topics discussed in each web-page.
    By ContextIn Semantic Advertising algorithms

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