Yahoo: Open up your search index to gain market share

Yahoo has been going through some turbulent weather. The Microsoft/Yahoo merger talks has fizzled out with Yahoo trying to fiercely stay independent. Yahoo has signed up a multi-year search ads monetizing deal with Google. Techcrunch is reporting a lot of executives leaving. It seems as if Yahoo has given up on Search monetization. If they give up on Search monetization, how long would they stay in the Search relevance, quality and related applications itself? On the other hand, unless Yahoo improves adoption of it’s Search products, it will not gain traction on Search monetization (catch-22).

Yahoo’s vision was to be the starting point for the consumer on the web with various Yahoo portals and Yahoo’s directory. Consumers though have moved to search as their starting point on the web and the default search for most consumers is Google. Yahoo’s strategy for being the starting point on the web would not work unless it stays in the search game.

How can Yahoo stay competitive and win the search and search monetization game?

I think Yahoo should open up completely. Open source is a great way to win the game without playing second fiddle. This has worked in the past for Linux when competing with Microsoft Windows. Google tried the same thing with OpenSocial while competing with Facebook. Google is fiercely secretive about Search where it is a market leader but has embraced open source (with Android) when competing with iPhone, RIMM and other mobile phone platforms. Playing the ‘open’ card helps the smaller rival get significant market share against the dominant players.

While Yahoo is flirting with openness through programs such as Hadoop, Search API, YUI and SearchMonkey they need to embrace open source completely at their core if they want to win at Search against Google.

Yahoo should open up their crawl & index and let developers run computations and build applications on Yahoo’s crawl and index. Yahoo and has a large crawl corpus representative of the web, opening it up would enable development of a lot of other search and web mining applications on top of it. Developers could build new signals or vertical search engines on top of Yahoo’s index. Yahoo would benefit from development of new signals which could get incorporated in their own search applications. New search applications could integrate better with Yahoo properties.

Harnessing the developer community would get the technology early adopters to start using Yahoo Search, who in turn could influence the main stream users. Yahoo could build a platform and an ecosystem where developers and startups who want to build interesting applications/technology could build it on top of Yahoo. Yahoo could provide the platform, distribution (Yahoo gets huge amount of page views) and help them with monetization. The next gen web applications like vertical search engines, semantic web applications etc. would be built on top of Yahoo’s search platform. Think of it as Facebook opening up it’s platform to allow building of social applications, Yahoo could do the same for Search and Search related applications. Let the good folks who are building applications like Indeed, Spock, Simply Hired, Trulia and similar web applications, build it on top of Yahoo’s Search platform. I for one would have definitely built Sangeetix on Yahoo’s platform.

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One response to “Yahoo: Open up your search index to gain market share

  1. This is a brilliant idea.

    I’ve discussed a related idea before: An open approach to something like Google PageRank that provides useful information on the authority/trust of a URL.

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