Is Yahoo! Still in the Search Game?

During a recent SearchSpeak presentation, Yahoo! executives felt it necessary to defend the company’s long-term commitment to search. This defensive attitude seemed to extend from the complex Microsoft deal that will allow Bing to power Yahoo!’s search.

This Bing deal has started rumors that Yahoo! is closing up its search department and heading off into the sunset. The Bing deal has also caused supporters of Yahoo! BOSS to express concern that its “Build your Own Search Service” will be turned off soon, leaving developers in the cold as its one feature Bing has yet to be introduced.
One of the recent lab developments from Yahoo! is a new visual search aid that allows users with mobile devices to quickly refine business or service queries by location. The location is defined, as shown in the picture, by drawing a shape around the location you want results from. It appears to be a fairly simple but effective way to define your search location and seems to match with human behavior of circling important data so it is easier to find the relevant information.

There are many ways that you can set and define your target location, and this Yahoo! Sketch-a-Search is just the first of many likely versions their engineers will be testing. It would be great to see some more information provided by Yahoo! about this product available in their Labs, as the only images available were those taken during the presentation with cellphone cameras. There is no point launching a product that has potential and then not providing an official Yahoo! labs channel for more details or at least a beta expression of interest form.
What is Yahoo! doing?

Is this a Yahoo! presentation or a Google promotional event? There are seven key points wrong with this product if Yahoo! are trying to build product diversity and innovation that the competition can’t quickly replicate. As CNN Tech points out, even if the clone is inferior, nobody knows about the original, so the consumers are happy with a new Google or Bing feature.

1) It is powered by Google maps not Yahoo! Local Maps
2) Google powered products may complicate its Bing agreements
3) It encourages people to be comfortable with Google maps products
4) It can be quickly replicated by the Google Maps team
5) Mobile still represents a small portion of the search market
6) Yahoo! needs business to support its mobile products
7) Yahoo! needs to build lab products quicker into commercial products

Yahoo! also seems to have a lot of information about future products, concepts, and theory hidden deep within Yahoo! research and Yahoo! labs. Yahoo! has to learn about making more of this information easier to find by consumers, and promoting and hyping up their future beta products, as this can help them draw large testing audiences, just as Google and Microsoft have done for years.

So where does this put Yahoo!?
The recent comScore reports that show Yahoo!’s share of US search queries in the last year has dropped from 20% to 17%, with Bing rising to 11%. Within Asia, Yahoo! has a significant market share so the increased energy allocated to mobile search products does make commercial sense. So while it may be too early to get the Yahoo! Sketch-a-Search app for your iPhone, this new app does show that Yahoo! has not left the search game just yet.