Yahoo to Launch Open Search Platform

In a move that could allow marketers to influence their presence on its search results pages, Yahoo has launched a program allowing site owners to build plug-ins for Yahoo Search.

Under the open search platform, users who enable a Yahoo Search plug-in created by a publisher will see enhanced listings when the publisher’s site is returned on a Yahoo search results page. The plug-ins are intended to expose structured information, and provide more deep links into a site, for instance to images or reviews.

“The experience is dramatically different, and very useful to searchers,” said Amit Kumar, director of product management for Yahoo Search.

One of the first publishers to publish a plug-in will be local content site Yelp. Searchers who have enabled the Yelp plug-in will see an enhanced result when Yelp shows up in search results. Instead of the typical title and description, the result will appear more like a Yahoo Shortcut, Google Onebox, or Ask Smart Answer. It will include links to Yelp reviews, photos, ratings, and contact info for the business.

Other publishers to offer plug-ins at launch later this year will include LinkedIn, BabyCenter, and the CondeNet network of sites, including Epicurious, Concierge.com and Style.com. Yahoo intends to collect many of the plug-ins on its site in a “publishers’ gallery” for users to enable, and may even automatically enable some of the more popular plug-ins, Kumar said.

Yahoo will not feature or promote plug-ins that include advertising, or that are not relevant to users. And publishers will never be able to pay for placement in the gallery or other promotion by Yahoo. “This is not a paid relationship; it’s all about relevance,” Kumar said.

Yahoo will provide publishers with tools to create the plug-ins, which are expected to go live within the next few months.

Users will be able to enable and disable any plug-in directly from the enhanced result. They will also be able to forward the plug-in to their Yahoo contacts, or enter e-mail addresses of contacts to share with. Yahoo will also assist publishers with graphics to help promote the plug-in from their site.

Use of the plug-in will not affect the order of the search results. If a result would have appeared in the third position without the plug-in, the enhanced result will appear in that same position.

This is the latest move in Yahoo’s “big bets” strategy, which rests on improving openness, becoming the “partner of choice” for its various constituencies, and providing insights to partners, Kumar said. In this case, the partners are site owners.

Since Yahoo founder Jerry Yang took the reins at Yahoo last summer, he has spoken of developing Yahoo as a set of platforms. The most recent example is Yahoo Buzz, a social news site launched in beta today. Yahoo Buzz combines consumer votes and search patterns with editorial judgment to bring buzz-worthy stories from publishers large and small to Yahoo’s front page. In its beta phase, Yahoo Buzz includes content from nearly 100 publishers, ranging from large online publishers to influential niche blogs. Yahoo expects to eventually open up Yahoo Buzz to all publishers interested in having their content included.

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