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Yahoo tries turning BOSS into search cash cow

The Internet pioneer's effort to make money by sharing its search results has taken a new turn: Yahoo will charge others to use the service.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

When Yahoo announced BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service) in 2008, the company said it planned to make money from the service. On Wednesday, though, the company announced it's got a new way in mind: charging for high-volume use of the search data.

Yahoo will charge for use of the BOSS API (application programming interface), the service by which other Web sites can extract Yahoo's search data then repurpose it to their hearts' content, according to a blog post by Ashim Chhabra of Yahoo's Search BOSS team. Previously, the company had planned to make money from BOSS by requiring outsiders with high-traffic sites to show Yahoo search ads next to their results.

The new approach allows companies to pursue their own monetization strategies and will help make the API itself more useful by lifting constraints, Chhabra said.

"We're introducing fees for a couple of reasons. First and most importantly, we're hard at work on a number of technologies that will enhance both the functionality and performance of BOSS, and usage fees will help support this development," Chhabra said. "Second, we believe that introducing the proposed pricing structure will improve the ecosystem by optimizing capacity for our serious developers."

BOSS is one part of Yahoo's attempt to make its search more competitive with dominant rival Google, which gained market share over rivals in January, according to Nielsen Online.

One limit that's lifted will be the amount of search results that can be retrieved with one call to the BOSS API; with the fee structure, that limit goes from 50 to 1,000. Yahoo also will offer a service level agreement (SLA) so outsiders can count on BOSS working.

BOSS now can show Web sites' descriptive data spotlighted by Yahoo's SearchMonkey service.
BOSS now can show Web sites' descriptive data spotlighted by Yahoo's SearchMonkey service. Yahoo

The new fees likely will go into effect late in the second quarter, according to the BOSS fee page; those who use the service will pay on the basis of 10-cent units. For example, retrieving the first 100 results for 1,000 searches costs 10 units; developers will get 30 free credits a day, and the rate goes down during off-peak hours.

SearchMonkey injection
Yahoo also announced it's grafting some SearchMonkey technology into BOSS. SearchMonkey can gussy up certain Yahoo search results in cases when the Web sites listed describe their own data with computer-oriented descriptions called microformats such as a restaurant indicating its address. This idea, called the "semantic Web" and long under development, theoretically gives computers a better understanding of what's on Web pages.

The BOSS API now can be set so that search data it retrieves spotlights that structured data, Chhabra said.

BOSS now also shows two other elements: longer 300-character descriptions of each page in search results, up from 170 characters, and some data retrieved by Yahoo's SiteExplorer technology, which can show details such as popular pages within a particular Web site or a list of other Web sites that link to it.