Yahoo intros 'social' search engine

Yahoo has enhanced its My Web personal search service to make it possible for users to share their personal Web index of pages and links.

My Web 2.0, which is in test, or beta, mode, was launched late on Tuesday and will be available on a first-come first-serve basis to a limited number of users at http://myweb2.search.yahoo.com.

Yahoo launched the first version of My Web in April to let users save and annotate Web pages and keep a history of their search queries as well as the search results they click on.

At the time, Yahoo said My Web was intended for users interested in creating their own personal Web index tailored to their tastes and interests. My Web also let users share saved results via e-mail, syndication and a public Web page of saved search results, a so-called link blog.

But My Web 2.0 allows for the creation of groups of users that make their personal Web indexes available to each other. Thus, a Web 2.0 user can not only search his own personal Web index, but also the indexes of others who have shared their indexes with him, such as friends, co-workers and peers. For example, a group of physicists might create a group to share their personal Web indexes, knowing that queries will yield only hand-picked results from their peers.

"My Web 2.0 was designed from the ground up as a social search engine. It can search across trusted networks of people and communities, and complements [general] Web searching," said Eckart Walther, vice president of product management for Yahoo Search.

The overall aim of personal search services such as My Web 2.0 is to deliver to users page results that are more relevant than the ones they obtain running queries against search engines' entire indexes, which typically contain billions of pages. Google and Ask Jeeves both have personal search services.

My Web 2.0 users don't have to necessarily make their entire Web index available for sharing with those in their group. The service lets users keep links and pages private. Later on, Yahoo will let My Web 2.0 users make their index available not only to those in their groups but to all My Web 2.0 users.

Users manage their My Web 2.0 groups through a contacts management feature in the Yahoo 360 blogging and social networking service from the company. In order to use this feature, it isn't necessary for Web 2.0 users to populate their Yahoo 360 space with any content if they don't want to, Walther said.

Queries launched against the personal indexes of a group of My Web 2.0 users deliver results based on Yahoo's new MyRank search technology, which was designed for personal Web searching.

Like its previous version, My Web 2.0 is a free service but it requires users to register with Yahoo and create an account.

Another new feature in My Web 2.0 is a tagging capability that lets users add descriptive keywords to saved pages and links. With this feature, it will not be necessary for users to organize saved pages and links in folders and sub-folders, according to Yahoo.

Personalizing the search experience is part of Yahoo's overall strategic push to make its entire portal more relevant and useful to its visitors, an analyst said. "As options increase for consumers, a key way for portals such as Yahoo to increase usage is to create the most personalized experience possible," said Patrick Mahoney, a Yankee Group analyst.

"By tying My Web into Yahoo 360, Yahoo is creating a personal search engine that gives users not only a random mathematics-based search experience, but one that is tailored to them. The hope and goal is that consumers will value the increased relevance and personalization, leading then to more usage," Mahoney added.

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