Yahoo finally brought together some of its interesting social media acquisitions (Upcoming and Flickr) and the content is has from across its site (like videos or travel information) to make its search smarter. And it’s a real success. The design is appealing, the search results relevant, the idea of bringing in content very clever.
But the change isn’t big enough or interesting enough to make many people switch from Google. People have become too accustomed to searching the Google way: fast, stripped down, always improved relevancy. Yahoo’s new approach, while sleek, still asks you to do too many new things that don’t help you that much more.
TechCrunch points out that the coolest feature is a dropdown pane that tracks when you’re hesitating spelling out a word. It is cool. It suggests other keywords that could help with the search or suggests results based on inforamtion it knows about you, like your zip code. But I think we’re already beyond that. We’ve learned that to get really great results, all we need to do is type in a string of word queries at Google. (And yes, we’ve also finally learned, after Google repeatedly reminded us, we don’t need to include “and.”)
Yahoo needs a change along the lines of Facebook’s breakthrough. Is it breaking up all its content and services and spreading it around the web as Jeff Jarvis suggests? Or is it finally just biting the bullet and merging with MySpace and figuring out a way to really do social search, but from the perspective of people who are in social networks and not on search engines? Yahoo needs some radical thinking, not clever iterative moves like what we saw today.