Metasearch has been around for years now, and having come out as a potential ‘killer app’ of the web (a search engine of search engines?), it never really took off as expected. Now, Yahoo! is trying to advance its stalled potentiality by adding Web 2.0 elements to it — both technically through AJAX and actually integrating results from Web 2.0 services — with their newly launched beta product Alpha (Ha! How’s that for a confusing intro.)
How It Works
Technically, such a thing has been attempted several times in the past. Amazon’s A9 was the first of this kind which I can remember that used AJAX in its interface and included results it gathered from others’ Web APIs. Alpha’s partially different in which it has a much much simpler interface and advanced features to customize and personalize your results.
Like an ordinary search engine, you type in a term and get back search results from Yahoo! (you know, it being a Yahoo! product and all). But, what’s different is that Yahoo! presents a set of boxes on the side with drop down arrows on them. By clicking on them, you find results from that particular source (currently offering Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers/News.)
It seems like a typical search engine until you see the “customize this page” link, which is really where the fire lies with Alpha. In what seems like super-AJAX, you can manipulate every aspect of the page like your Netvibes or Pageflakes homepage. What’s more, you can add your own custom search sources or modules. Supply it with a name, sample URL and test query, and you should be done. I was able to setup a module for rev2 and it worked like a charm. For the power searcher, Alpha is the ultimate search tool.
Alpha seems like an interesting and unexpected product from Yahoo!. Maybe it’s their plan to come up with a pure search engine for Web 2.0, or to promote their other services alongside results from Wikipedia and YouTube (one thing that seems weird to me is why they don’t have del.icio.us in, which I’ve even seen in other meta engines.) Nevertheless, it is possible that they’re planning to evolve it and eventually replace Yahoo!’s own search interface style, which I think would be most suitable for something like Alpha.