Posted July 10, 2008 9:49 am by with 17 comments

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Forget the 20,000+ employees that help Google grow its market share every day. Yahoo just signed on 6,602,224,175 volunteers to help it grow its share of the search space!

6,602,224,175? A pretty impressive number, huh? That’s the current estimated population of the world, and Yahoo has just made each and every one of us an honorary Yahooligan, with the launch of its Build your Own Search Service–aka BOSS.

BOSS is a new, open platform that offers programmatic access to the entire Yahoo! Search index via an API. BOSS allows developers to take advantage of Yahoo!’s production search infrastructure and technology, combine that with their own unique assets, and create their own search experiences. While search APIs have been available for some time, BOSS removes many of the usage restrictions that have prevented other companies from using them to build innovative new search engines.

In other words, Yahoo has embraced an initiative I evangelize a lot in my work: when your customers are openly invited to help build your brand, they take ownership of it. What does that mean? Think about it. If you’ve built your own search tool–thanks to Yahoo’s infrastructure–wouldn’t you want to make Yahoo better? Wouldn’t you eagerly provide feedback, fix bugs, tell your friends how great Yahoo is, and, think twice before using Google?

If Yahoo’s BOSS takes-off, it could build market share from brand investment alone!

Add to that the increased audience reach, improvements, and revenue Yahoo will realize from BOSS.

For BOSS, we see a virtuous circle in which partners deliver innovative search experiences, and as they grow their audiences and usage we have more data that can be used to improve our own Yahoo! Search experience and as a result, improve the quality of results our BOSS partners and their users get. Second, we do see new revenue streams from BOSS. In the coming months, we’ll be launching a monetization platform for BOSS that will enable Yahoo! to expand its ad network and enable BOSS partners to jointly participate in the compelling economics of search.

So, what? You say. Google has APIs and doesn’t it allow you to build a custom search? Yes, but not to the extent that BOSS does. Here’s what BOSS offers:

  • Ability to re-rank and blend results — BOSS partners can re-rank search results as they see fit and blend Yahoo!’s results with proprietary and other web content in a single search experience
  • Total flexibility on presentation — Freedom to present search results using any user interface paradigm, without Yahoo! branding or attribution requirements
  • BOSS Mashup Framework — We’re releasing a Python library and UI templates that allow developers to easily mashup BOSS search results with other public data sources
  • Web, news and image search — At launch, developers will have access to web, news and image search and we’ll be adding more verticals soon
  • Unlimited queries — There are no rate limits on the number of queries per day

According to Yahoo, companies are already taking advantage of BOSS:

  • Me.dium, a start-up that’s built an innovative collaborative browsing product used BOSS to build a web-scale search engine that leverages its real-time surfing data.
  • Hakia, a semantic search start-up, is using BOSS to access the Yahoo! Search index and dramatically increase the speed with which it can semantically analyze the web.
  • Daylife To-Go is a new self-service, hosted publishing platform from Daylife. Anyone can use this platform to generate customizable pages and widgets.
  • Cluuz, a next-generation search engine prototype, generates easier-to-understand search results through semantic cluster graphs, image extraction and tag clouds.

It’s hard to discuss Yahoo these days, without mentioning acquisition/merger talks. The only hurdle that Yahoo’s BOSS faces is that the company will likely get acquired, before it has a chance to make an impact on the bottom line.

  • My God what a fantastic step forward! I guess this is what some would call a paradigm shift in thinking. When did this all start? I guess I am a little behind the times. What are the other search players going to do now? Really a fabulous step forward and I thought Yahoo was pretty much on its way out.

  • Raj…Guess we’ll really see how great it is once users get acclimated and start using the service. That’s always the real test.

  • Sounds interesting but I don’t think it’s *such* a big step forward versus Google’s Custom Search Engine…

    The ‘ability to re-rank and blend results’ is cited as an extra that CSE wouldn’t have it. I’m not sure exactly what is meant by that but Google CSE does let a user fully customize the search results (you can add your own links to the results, in whatever order you fancy, for example) using a XML feed. You can also fully customize the layout and can also break search results down into your own custom categories if your engine / site needs etc. These are just a few examples of customization available.

    Sure, it’s a nice initiative but I don’t see why it’s presented as being much more customizable than the CSE when, in fact, it doesn’t seem to be…

    Otilia Otlacan’s last blog post..The Rubicon Project Partners with AdJug to Deliver Efficiency to the International Online Advertising Market

  • So long as this isn’t for Yahoo what Apps was to Facebook (exposing the brand to poorly executed apps) then they’re on to a winner.

  • Yahoo continues to come up with such cool and innovative stuff, that it’s a real shame to see them all muddled up with the boardroom shanagians. It will be nice to see that resolved and have them back doing what they do best. Maybe even roll out their Yahoo Publisher Network ads to non US publishers . . . hint hint!

    Top Rated Digital’s last blog post..The Top 10 Digital Cameras Ripped Apart

  • Wow. It will be interesting to see where this goes. A smart move for them indeed.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..Interview with SEO: Brian Carter and Search Engine Journal Post

  • Firstly. lets see how this goes from press release to implementation.

    Secondly, this is no longer an even playing field, Google are so far ahead that Yahoo now have to be twice as innovative just to keep up.

    Go 2 Graphics’s last blog post..WELCOME????..

  • Well its definitely worth a try, gives us a bit more flexibility. Well done Yahoo, nice to know that they are still busy with all the negative publicity of late.

  • I think Yahoo could be the next bad guy…or girl..

  • Wise move…throwing it open and out there so the community can develop & evolve the search experience as needed might just be the ticket to gaining some marketshare. Now to see how well BOSS gets embraced by the community. Exciting stuff.

  • You are totally right that Yahoo was pretty much on its way out.

  • It does not looks like anything special. Like Otilia mentioned, Google is not far away.

    Mr Marketing’s last blog post..Negative PR is still PR.

  • Its a good move, but as long as google has the better search results i dont see it really taking off.

  • Looks like a great idea, however Yahoo have got a long way to go to catch up with Google. But if they do then im sure they will not be interested by any offers that microsoft can make.

  • PS3

    Yeah, they have a long way, but the further they go towards achieving that, the better choice for consumers.

    Yahooligans indeed!

  • If they keep going like that, they will someday catch up with Google

    Travel Point’s last blog post..The Samba of Brazil

  • This is excellent news and just the breath of fresh air that Yahoo needs.

    Let’s not forget that Yahoo actually IS a major player and that Google ISN’T the only game in town. There are too many Google evangelists that have completely discounted how powerful Yahoo really is.

    Rock on Yahoo.