Fulfilling its promise to innovate in search, Yahoo has introduced a new spin on its third-place search engine. The new features aim to deliver news and entertainment content to searchers across multiple devices. Yahoo is calling the remake "immersive search."
"Our goal is to understand what people care about and to make it fun for them to explore the most personally relevant, interesting and informative content so that they can get things done faster and stay in the know," said Shashi Seth, senior vice president of Yahoo Search and Marketplaces.
When you go to Yahoo.com and search for topics such as Lady Gaga or the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, you'll see a new results page with a large box at the top that gives a new take on search.
The immersive Yahoo box offers shortcuts for movies, musical artists, celebrities and news topics that organize details such as images, articles, videos, tweets, listings and ratings. Yahoo also offers a web app for Netflix that lets members add DVDs to their queue from the search-results page. Members can also start watching movies and TV shows right from search results.
"This looks different than the 'universal search' results that we've seen, whether it's been a smart box or an answer," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. "Yahoo wants to bring transactions to that space as well, so if there is an event, theoretically you could buy tickets."
The new Yahoo results display image slideshows right above the standard results for topics from its Trending Now lists. And the new Image Search offers slideshows with public photos from Flickr and other Yahoo content sites, as well as the ability to view Facebook albums from friends when they sign in and connect their Yahoo accounts to Facebook.
"Yahoo is trying to make search much more of an interactive experience," Sterling said. "Search engines have been talking about providing answers and not just links. Yahoo is trying to go farther and let people do more things in the area at the top of the search-results page. Of course, all of this is qualified by the relevance of the query."
Yahoo also promised Android and iPhone users faster, more sophisticated search results using HTML5 technology. Rich content on entertainment, finance and local topics is revealed in new ways. The new features are already rolling out on Yahoo in the U.S., and the company said it will make them available in other countries in 2011.
Two questions remain: How will this impact advertising on Yahoo, and will it help the company regain market share in the search-engine wars?
Yahoo has said it's not going to put display advertising in the space at launch. However, Sterling believes Yahoo will include display advertising in the new box in the future. "If you did a travel search, there might be some relevant display ads for a hotel or airfare in the location you are searching for," Sterling said. "That's a hypothetical possibility."
What about the Google implications? Although Yahoo's new immersive search looks much different than what competitors are offering today and may get some attention, Sterling isn't betting it will shift people away from market leader Google.