Yahoo revamps personal search service

Yahoo has improved a personal search service it launched in October, increasing the ways users can share it with others, making it more widely and prominently available and opening it to developers through an application programming interface (API), the company said Tuesday.

The service, which previously was called My Yahoo Search and has been renamed My Web, lets users save Web pages and can keep a history of users' search queries and the search results they click on.

"We're creating a personal search engine for each user, a personal index of the documents that most matter to them," said Tim Mayer, director of product management for Yahoo Search technology.

As Yahoo and other search engine providers continue to increase the number of search services, a list that already includes local-business, news, image, desktop, multimedia, discussion-group and product search, the challenge will be to let users know about all these different options and explain the benefits and applications of each, said Su Li Walker, a Yankee Group analyst.

"I'd be interested to see how [search engine providers] educate consumers that these services are available," she said. Otherwise, many users might feel confused and overwhelmed, which will in turn hurt the adoption of these search services, she said.

Like its predecessor, My Web is integrated with Yahoo's Web mail service to let users share its contents via e-mail. But a new feature in My Web is its integration with Yahoo's instant messaging service for sharing purposes. In the coming weeks, My Web will also be integrated with Yahoo's social networking and Web logging service, Yahoo 360. My Web, however, isn't at this point integrated with Yahoo's desktop search tool, Mayer said.

Whereas My Yahoo Search was only available on the Yahoo Next page, where the prototypes of new services are featured, My Web can be accessed from the main Yahoo Search page (http://search.yahoo.com) as well as from the new beta version of the Yahoo Toolbar at http://beta.toolbar.com.

Moreover, My Web has an API (application programming interface), which its predecessor lacked, so the service can be linked to other applications. The My Web API is at http://developer.yahoo.net/myweb/V1/listFolders.html.

Like its predecessor, My Web lets users annotate search results and pages they save, but new with My Web is the ability to create a public Web page of saved pages, a so-called link blog.

My Web can store pages in HTML format, but not images, audio or video, Mayer said. My Web can only point to that type of multimedia content and index its metadata, such a file's name and description, he said.

My Web can record users' search queries and the ensuing results that they click on, but this feature can be turned off, Mayer said. My Web also lets users delete previously saved items, he said. My Web also can import a user's bookmarks and make them part of its records.

To access My Web, which is currently available in a test, or beta, version, users need to be registered Yahoo users and log into their accounts. All the My Web information is stored on Yahoo servers, so users can access the service from any computer with Internet access and with Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer or The Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser.

My Web is a free service.

Yahoo competitors Google and Ask Jeeves offer similar services.

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