Yahoo Launches My Web Personal Search

Yahoo has beefed up its personal search with a number of new features and tools, expanding the capabilities of the My Yahoo personal search features that the company launched last October.

“We feel that this is another step for us for personal search, and will really resonate with our users,” said Tim Mayer, director of product management for Yahoo Search.

Most notably, the new My Web service now allows you to save a cached copy of a page in addition to saving just a link to the page.

Cached pages are saved to your personal “My Web,” and you can perform full-text searches over these pages. Previously, Yahoo only saved a link and an optional annotation to a page, making it difficult in some cases to find content where underlying pages had changed.

Yahoo has also implemented a nice search history feature that’s similar to the one unveiled by Google last week. The search history feature tracks the sites you visit from Yahoo search results, and indicates when you’ve previously visited a page in search results. Even if you forget to save a page to My Web, the search history can help you locate it again.

Yahoo provides several mechanisms for saving content to your My Web collection. From Yahoo search results, click the “save” link next to any result. There’s a bookmarklet available that you can add to the links area of your browser. The Yahoo Toolbar (Internet Explorer or Firefox versions) has been upgraded to support My Web, and Firefox users can download a “Save to My Web” button that installs in the browser.

Of all these methods, I’d recommend using the Yahoo toolbar, as it allows you to save pages to My Web from any page you’re viewing, not just Yahoo search results. The Firefox button also takes up space in your browser, reducing the viewing area for web pages you’re viewing.

Another neat feature is the ability to populate My Web using your existing Yahoo bookmarks or IE favorites (no Firefox support yet, but Mayer says this is coming soon). This is a great way to assure that all of the content you’ve found on the web will be permanently saved in a way that’s easy to access, solving the “bookmark rot” problem that plagues everyone after a few years of surfing the web.

Yahoo has beefed up the sharing features of My Web, as well. You can annotate pages with notes, and share your My Web pages via email, Yahoo Messenger and in a few weeks, with Yahoo 360. Another nice feature allows you to create a “link blog,” a page of your favorite saved pages that is publicly accessible. Yahoo also provides the tools to publish links in RSS format, and support for the emerging “attention.xml” specification which enables interoperability with other services.

To take advantage of the new My Web features, you need to be a registered Yahoo user (registration is free) and be signed in to the service. Yahoo does this to protect your privacy, ensuring that you and only you can access your My Web archive, unless you enable some of the sharing services.

You also must explicitly enable the My Search History feature by clicking the “Start” link, again, to protect your privacy. “We’ve obviously been very careful with this,” said Mayer, also noting that you can easily remove items from your search history as well.

Developers will want to take a look at the My Web APIs, which allow you to use Yahoo data in other services.

I haven’t had a chance to do a thorough head-to-head comparison between Yahoo’s My Web and Google’s My Search History, but I’m impressed with what I’ve seen with My Web so far. I really like the ability to permanently save copies of web pages—something that Google’s My Search History does not enable.

I plan to circle back and do a closer comparison between the services, especially as we’ve gotten wind of enhancements coming down the pipe in personalized search from Ask Jeeves and MSN.

For more information, see the My Web help and My Web FAQ pages.

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