In an effort to open up its search results page and provide users with better access to structured content from trusted publishers, Yahoo is launching a new program that allows site owners to build plug-ins for Yahoo Search that will enhance the site owner's listing in Yahoo's search results.
Under the "Search Monkey" open search platform, users who turn on a Yahoo Search plug-in created by a publisher will see enhanced listings when the publisher's site is returned on a Yahoo search results page. The plug-ins are intended to expose structured information, and provide more deep links into a site, images, or ratings and reviews, for example.
"The experience is dramatically different, and very useful to searchers," said Amit Kumar, director of product management for Yahoo Search.
One of the first publishers to publish a Search Monkey plug-in will be local content site Yelp. Searchers who have enabled the Yelp plug-in will see an enhanced result when Yelp shows up in search results. Instead of the typical title and description, the result will appear more like a Yahoo Shortcut, Google Onebox, or Ask Smart Answer. It will include links to Yelp reviews, photos, ratings, and contact info for the business.
Other publishers to offer Search Monkey plug-ins at launch later this year will include LinkedIn, BabyCenter, and the CondeNet network of sites, including Epicurious, Concierge.com and Style.com. Yahoo intends to collect many of the plug-ins on its site in a "publishers' gallery" for users to enable, and may even automatically enable some of the more popular plug-ins, Kumar said.
Yahoo will not feature or promote plug-ins that include advertising, or that are not relevant to users. And publishers will never be able to pay for placement in the gallery or other promotion by Yahoo. "This is not a paid relationship; it's all about relevance," Kumar said.
Yahoo will provide publishers with tools to create the plug-ins, which are expected to go live within the next few months.
Users will be able to enable and disable any Search Monkey plug-in directly from the enhanced result. They will also be able to forward the plug-in to their Yahoo contacts, or enter e-mail addresses of contacts to share with. Yahoo will also assist publishers with graphics to help promote the plug-in from their site.
Use of the plug-in will not affect the order of the search results. If a result would have appeared in the third position without the plug-in, the enhanced result will appear in that same position.
This is the latest move in Yahoo's "big bets" strategy, which rests on improving openness, becoming the "partner of choice" for its various constituencies, and providing insights to partners, Kumar said. In this case, the partners are site owners.
Since Yahoo founder Jerry Yang took the reins at Yahoo last summer, he has spoken of developing Yahoo as a set of platforms. His strategy also incorporates openness with partners of all sorts. Most recently, this openness manifested with the massive implementation of Apache Hadoop, an open-source server platform, to power its Web search.
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