A weird one for you, but sounds pretty cool. Yahoo's given the heads-up that a new Instant Search feature is to be offered by the time this story goes live. Type in a word, and Instant Search will show you an answer for popular queries in a "speech bubble" directly below the search box.
In other words, say you wanted to search for wikipedia. Type that in, and Yahoo says it will recognize that's a popular query, where the first listing on its results page is often chosen. So, it will suggest that for you. Click in the speech bubble, and you can go right to the page, without having to generate search results.
In a way, it's a "I'm Feeling Kind Of Lucky" feature for Yahoo. Google's trademark I'm Feeling Lucky button on its home page that takes you to the first search result that would have come up on Google, had you gone to the search results page and clicked there. But if you're feeling lucky, you can trust Google, use the button, and it will take you there directly.
Yahoo's Instant Search does a similar thing, only it gives you a preview of where you'll go. So you can decide a bit more if you're feeling lucky before trusting it.
In some cases, Yahoo will take you to a shortcut result or answer. For instance, weather san francisco on Yahoo gives you a Yahoo Shortcuts result first, where the weather forecast is shown right within the results. With Instant Search, the forecast should appear just below the search box, no need even to click to reach it.
Additionally, if you type in a URL, Instant Search is supposed to turn that into a link to take you to the page entered. Misspell a word? A correction should appear, with a link to get results for the corrected word.
Not every query will have Instant Search functionality. Yahoo says it works for the most popular queries only. Behind the scenes, it depends on Ajax to make the magic happen quickly.
But if searchers don't get results, then they don't see ads -- so won't this possibly hurt Yahoo? Yahoo didn't really answer my question on that directly, saying more that they think it will be a cool new feature to enhance the search experience and stickiness of use at Yahoo. How exactly it will evolve will depend on how it gets used.
My interpretation? For some queries, Yahoo doesn't mind if you don't see ads. For many other queries, you'll still need to hit the results page. If this helps many searchers find Yahoo more useful, then it may keep them with the service and generate more queries and ad views, rather than hurt that.
Want to try the feature? OK, you're supposed to find information at Yahoo Next, the Yahoo debut area for funky experimental things like this. You're also supposed to be able to find it from the new Instant Search area. In either place, once you do a search and see the Instant Search speech bubble show up, you're supposed to get an option to make this work on Yahoo's pure search page, if you want it. That's at search.yahoo.com. It's not being offered for the main Yahoo.com page.
How about getting it into the Yahoo Toolbar? Not yet, but Yahoo said it's something they'd look to see if possible.