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Commentary: Yahoo's challenge

To match Google's performance, Yahoo must modify its newly acquired Inktomi search engine to factor in editorial judgment.

Commentary: Yahoo's challenge
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET
March 24, 2003, 7:40AM PST

By Paul Sonderegger, Senior Analyst

Yahoo's acquisition last week of Inktomi's Web search technology signals a move to gain independence from Google. But to match Google's performance, Yahoo must modify the Inktomi engine to factor in editorial judgments when searching Web content.

Google's technology has a lock on how to find the most relevant Web content--analyzing hyperlinks. Yahoo has a directory of sites and pages that represent millions of editorial decisions about content relevance. To provide search results that can match or beat Google's, Yahoo must modify its new Inktomi engine to take full advantage of its directory. It should use this asset to do the following:

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• Improve indexing of content. Search engines comb through an index of the Web's pages, not the actual pages themselves. But index entries sometimes fail to capture what the page is about. For example, an entry for an article on dog obedience may not include the word "training," even though it's a related idea. Yahoo should use its taxonomy, which documents these connections, to tag entries with terms that are relevant although they don't appear in the content.

• Expand people's queries. Searchers type one- to three-word queries that don't adequately describe their information needs. Yahoo can ease the problem this causes by spotting query terms that are also terms in the taxonomy. Then the engine can expand the query by adding terms that are commonly found in the documents in that category.

• Present results in context. Yahoo already returns relevant categories with its search results, but it can do more. By exploiting category tags added at index time, Yahoo could group Web search results by category and present editor-selected examples from the directory to better help users make selections. In addition, subcategory headings could be used to filter the results. A person who searched for "reading primer" could sort the results to show only those that are software, only those that are books, or both, instead of having to select each subcategory as a discrete list.

© 2003, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.