Online Extra: What the Boys of Yahoo See Coming

Co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo envision a service that caters to you -- anywhere -- and an Internet both simpler and more powerful

Yahoo! (YHOO ) founders Jerry Yang and David Filo are on a mission: They want their digital toy chest that brings together many links to the Web to reside on devices as far afield as plasma TVs and mobile communicators. With a new wave of innovations made possible as a result of an increasingly broadband-enabled world, their quest may not be impossible.

BusinessWeek Technology Correspondent Cliff Edwards recently sat down with the duo to discuss, among other things, how their company will remain relevant in the next era of search technology. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: What's the next big thing on the Internet?

Filo:

Anything that's off the PC. Whether it's your mobile device, or whether it's in your living room or car -o whatever it is, that stuff is still in a very immature state. Yang: It will be about how do you tie into the phone, the TV, hard drives, or satellite radio in your car? Yahoo has that opportunity to not only take the relationship we have with the users today but extend it to allow them to be more free, more mobile, and get more out of the Internet.

Q: You're talking about being able to use search through all the various content. How do you innovate on that part of the business?

Yang:

The current generation of search and search technology is all [built] around getting documents and figuring out what's relevant. The future has many more dimensions. There's going to be much more searching of content in the immediate community of people we care about. It's not about searching for something that 10 million people in the world want, but it's [about searching what is] the most important thing to me.

Q: Quite a few people are trying to do that. So where does Yahoo fit in?

Filo:

Jerry talked about how you get results that are tailored to you, tailored to the community you associate with. That's all data that we have. So, whether it's your messenger community, your e-mail community, or other personal group data, and people come in and interact with us in many different ways, we can take that, leverage it, and really understand what's more relevant to this person.

Q: Some people say all the innovation is going from the Web. Do you agree?

Filo:

I think most users would say the Web today is still not anywhere easy enough to use. The Web is very powerful, and many powerful applications are out there. Most of the people don't know how to use them. They don't know the features they have. We still have a long way to go before we make these things really accessible, really usable to people, and not force them to go off and create complex queries to get information.

Q: Do you expect to see any brand-new applications or services?

Yang:

What's great about the Internet, it's really a platform, a great platform for entrepreneurs, for small-time developers to be able to publish things. And I think with every tool -- we don't have to be too technical, but there are more and more software tools. There are an increasing number of ways to develop applications, and more and more people are opening up their infrastructure to design applications, including us. It's terrific to see.

Q: Content owners haven't been as happy because of the threat of piracy. Will the reluctance to publish content on the Web hold back innovation?

Filo:

Obviously, the rights' holders have been slow moving in some of these areas. [But] it's a natural evolution, I think, that as bandwidth becomes available, people [will] say, let's distribute this stuff over the Internet. It's going to be more efficient. Yang: You look at what IP-delivered video could do. There's literally an infinite number of channels -- stuff that they don't have physical transmission for, they can store on the server, and switch it to whatever they want. So, it does bring the opportunity not only for the creation of a lot more video but also finding what video you want.

Q: So you're saying everything will be connected to the Web?

Filo:

In general, technology doesn't seem to slow down. If anything, it accelerates. I think the one thing about the Web and this business is that the Internet isn't just another technology. It's not another product. It's at the core of technology. It's a basic part of infrastructure. The Internet is going to be pervasive across all technology.

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