Yahoo test drives contextual search

Yahoo has begun testing publicly a new search technology that can generate queries on the fly based on the content of the Web page a user is reading. The goal of the new technology is to make it easier and faster for users to find information than if they go through the conventional process of executing a keyword-based search engine query.

"Most people aren't skilled in the art of choosing exactly which keywords to use when searching," wrote Jeremy Zawodny, a Yahoo Search executive, in Yahoo Search's official blog to formally announce Y!Q. "The fundamental idea (behind Y!Q) was to supplement search queries with context."

Users can try out the new service, called Y!Q, in several ways. It has been implemented in a test Yahoo News environment available at http://test.news.yahoo.com/. Another option is to download a new Yahoo toolbar that lets users trigger contextual searches on any Web page they're visiting. The toolbar, called DemoBar, can be downloaded from http://yq.search.yahoo.com/splash/demobar.html. Finally, Web publishers can embed Y!Q tags into their Web pages. More information on how to do this is at http://yq.search.yahoo.com/splash/embed.html.

In all cases, the Y!Q queries and subsequent results are based on an analysis of the Web content a user actively highlights or is passively viewing. "Y!Q uses the context to help bridge the gap between query and intent," Zawodny wrote.

In the Yahoo News implementation, headlines are accompanied with "search related info" links, which trigger a Y!Q search. A small search results box pops up on top of the Web page being viewed. Users have the option to click on one of those results, close the results box or click on a link that takes the user to a separate page with a longer list of results. With the DemoBar, users highlight portions of the text of the Web page they're visiting and click on a button to trigger a Y!Q contextual query. Finally, Web publishers can tag content on their Web pages to give users the option of running a Y!Q contextual query.

Y!Q supports Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser and the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser.

More information about Y!Q can be found at http://yq.search.yahoo.com/splash/start.html.

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