Update 3:30 p.m. PDT: A correction: Although only travel modules could be sponsored at launch, now all can be. Also, there's no display ad opportunity at present, though the sponsorship can mean more prominence than text ads. Update 11:45 p.m.: I updated with new detail from Yahoo, further information from the site, and some analysis.
Yahoo has begun testing Glue Pages, a major new way to present search results that caters to its strength as an Internet portal.
Glue Pages, which the company began offering in beta form to Yahoo search users in India, combine traditional search results with a wealth of other related information. Traditional search results appear in a strip on the left side of the page, while other modules appear that spotlight sponsored links, recipes, medical information, Wikipedia entries, stock charts, Flickr images, train schedules, restaurant lists, news, and even Google blog search results.
Yahoo's Indian team developed the feature and so far there are no plans to bring it to the United States or other areas, said spokeswoman Kathryn Kelly.
"We encourage other regions to develop things that work for their regions," Kelly said. "If it does get traction, potentially something like it could launch in the United States."
Yahoo pioneered Internet portals, all-purpose sites where people can find everything they need, but Google found a much stronger business model through an effective search engine that presents bare-bones results with text ads alongside. Yahoo, though, hasn't given up, even though it continues to lose search share; In March the gap widened a bit more, with 59.8 percent of U.S. queries at Google and 21.3 percent at Yahoo, according to ComScore.
The search is interesting for other reasons besides Yahoo's portal strengths.
First is display ads, the graphics that typically are used to tout brand names and logos. Google's cash engine is built on text ads today, and Yahoo has relative strength in display ads.
Glue Pages have prominent sponsorship opportunities, though not yet display ad opportunities, Kelly said. Glue pages launched with the ability to sponsor travel pages, but now all modules can be sponsored, she said.
Second is the attempt to be more competitive with Google in its efforts to move to "universal search." Google today sometimes mixes other information such as photos alongside the traditional list of links in its search results, part of an effort to expand to provide a broader answer to what people are looking for.
Third, Glue Pages will dovetail with the, attempt to more tightly wire together its Web site while opening it up to outside programmers as a foundation.
"Glue will leverage the Yahoo application platform...in coming months," Kelly said, though today it doesn't yet. "We will eventually open it up, so developers could develop customized search results for Glue Pages the way we're doing it for Search Monkey."
Last is the idea of vertical search, in which search results are tailored for a specific domain such as health. Vertical search sites aren't as plentiful in India than in the United States, Kelly said, so Glue Pages can provide a more tailored entry point to the Internet.
There's no date set yet for the feature coming out of beta testing, Kelly said.
The service is definitely in beta, though. I'm not sure why a search for "violin lessons" would produce a blank five-day stock chart from Yahoo Finance, for example.
(Via Search Engine Land)