Yahoo released new search tools yesterday hoping to give Web searchers a leg up on finding what they want fast. I've been kicking the tires of the new Yahoo features and find there is both a lot to love and dislike. The tools include Search Assistant, Shortcuts, and enhanced search results that allow you to play found multimedia content directly from within search results.
The addition of Yahoo's Search Assistant is one of the best new features added today. Search Assistant is hard to miss. Just start typing a search query into Yahoo and Search Assistant gets to work.
Search Assistant drops down menu as you type your query into Yahoo. On the left-hand side of the menu are suggested words related to your query and on the right-hand side of the Search Assistant drop-down box are related concepts. For example a search for "Dave Matthews Band" suggests the word "Dave Matthews Band Tickets" and on the right the concept "summer tour" and "concerts" is suggested.
Search Assistant is helpful for on-the-fly refinement of search.
Yahoo has had what it calls Shortcuts for some time now. Shortcuts are packaged content that appears alongside regular search results. Up until today Shortcuts have been made up of static information related to searches. But now Shortcuts include multimedia content.
Say you're searching for information on your favorite band, Yahoo Shortcuts now serves up music clips and full length videos that can be played and watched directly from within search results. Shortcuts also nicely package other related links to content for music searches like links to albums, lyrics, and photos.
What's not to love about this feature?
What I didn't like about Shortcuts were that the modules I ran across only included Yahoo multimedia content. For example I searched for Dave Matthews Band and the bulk of the Shortcut content linked back to Yahoo. The only link to an outside site was to the official Dave Matthews Band Website.
I found the same Yahoo-centric search results delivered by Shorcuts when I punched in a query for "Boston vacations". This query delivered regular search results from the Web, but the Shortcut module only included links to Yahoo Travel. A search for the movie The Heartbreak Kid linked only to Yahoo Movies.
This Yahoo-centric tendency may be helpful and appreciated by some, but I prefer search results less fettered by the self interests of the search engine I'm using. The downside is also, Shortcut query results seem to be only as good as what Yahoo has to offer.
Integrated Multimedia in Search
Yahoo improves search results now by allowing you to watch and listen to multimedia content found on the Web from directly inside the Yahoo search results page. Say you are searching for videos of the comedian Eddie Murphy, what you will find in the results are thumbnail images of the videos Yahoo found. Click on the thumbnail and the video starts playing within the Yahoo search results page.
This is a nifty feature when it worked. But in my limited testing Yahoo was only able to deliver a small number of video clips when I feel search queries should of produced loads of video clips.
Currently Yahoo is the number two search destination behind Google. These new features are good bait to win back Yahoo users who may have defected to Google. For me the bright spot in Yahoo's announcement today is Search Assistant. As far as enhanced Shortcuts, I can do without them if the predominant content offered is only from Yahoo.