Yahoo Search Pad: An online notebook that watches you

Yahoo to launch new tool to help people organize research conducted on Yahoo's Internet search engine.

Yahoo Search Pad will sit in the upper-right corner of search result pages. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

Yahoo will launch a new tool on Tuesday to help people organize research they do on the Yahoo search engine. The Yahoo Search Pad will automatically save search results when it notices the user is doing research, which should make it easier for people to come back to a project on subsequent days to do more work.

Other Web notebook projects have notably failed, or at least failed to become important. Tools like Google Notebook and JetEye are (or were) all very strong tools for saving Web search results, but they require intent on the part of the user. They save nothing without the user asking for it to be saved. Search Pad, in contrast, watches what the user does (as long as they're doing it on Yahoo), and, according to Yahoo VP of Consumer Experience Larry Cornett, "uses deep science to recognize when someone is doing research."

In other words, if you're scanning for a funny video of a cat to occupy yourself during a conference call, it won't kick in. But if you're searching on a medical condition or researching a car or other major purchase, it will notice that you're clicking a lot of links, create a dossier for you in the background, and start to catalog your search results.

In my testing, it didn't work quite as advertised. While the service, which sits innocuously in the corner of Yahoo search result pages, collected Web site titles, pictures, and URLs in a little notebook, it never popped up to help me organize them despite me clicking dozens of times on sites during a test on a medical condition. However, the product is still a day from launch and the on-screen demo I got on it earlier was compelling.

The service collects pages and links for you, although in my testing it just saved everything without categorizing it. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

The entries that Search Pad saves can be added to with text, or deleted, moved, printed, or e-mailed, making a well-stocked "pad" a potentially very useful reference even when a user is not on the Yahoo search site. And as I said, the idea of a notebook that automatically stocks itself is sound, especially if it proves to be accurate in noticing when you're doing research and if it makes it easy to remove entries you don't want to follow up on (that, at least, I can confirm it does).

The service separates Yahoo from Google and Microsoft search engines. Were it working, and were I doing research on a complex topic, I would strongly consider using Yahoo search instead of an engine that gives only results, and then leaves it to you to sort and save them. Search Pad adds real value to search.

 

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