Yahoo! announced a bunch of new features today for its second-place search engine product, in an effort to keep up with competitors’ Google and Ask’s recent innovations with, respectively, Universal Search and Ask3D. Their goal: to get you from “to do” to “done” with your search query.
The first of the newly introduced features is keyword suggestions, dubbed ‘Search Assist’: something other search engines have been doing for a long time and which Google quietly sneaks in on very selective queries. As seen on the right, the feature ends up suggesting more narrow search terms on derivative topics.
This is a feature that, along with helping the searcher narrow down his or her options, also helps in generating the search engine that extra pageview. This way, searchers aren’t disappointed when they hit a dead-end and have to end up clicking on the first sort-of relevant link they see — but rather are able to drill down and find exactly what they are looking for.
The other main feature in Yahoo!”s announcement, also one that I think is going to be trivial for search engines as the Internet moves to a more rich media environment, is multimedia search directly embedded into the main search query. When new trends take place — the Britney Spears VMA performance or a new form of protein that cures cancer, for example — a lot of people head directly to the search engine of their choice to find out more.
This way, the relevant image from Flickr or video from YouTube is presented directly to the searcher when appropriate, rather than them having to navigate through a bunch of meaningless text links. It also indirectly makes the search experience more attractive and adds eyecandy.
The search wars, something spoken a lot about a lot four or so years ago and after Google came along, has quietly distilled into Google, then Yahoo!, the MSN, then Ask. Does it look like it’s going to change? Probably not for the next couple of years. But competition is healthy in a market like this and it makes sure we, the users, don’t end up seeing the same 10 blue titles, two line descriptions, and green links when we’re old and searching for homeopathic remedies for our deteriorating athlete’s foot but instead a couple of stupid ‘this didn’t work for me’ videos from YouTube and set of day-to-day ‘how this cured me’ images from Flickr. That’s great search experience right there.