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February 05, 2006  The World’s Information

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Google's web keyword search has become an integrated part of many people's day to day life. Yahoo's Chief Financial Office Susan Decker told Bloomberg News in late January: "We don't think it's reasonable to assume we're going to gain a lot of share from Google. It's not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search."

The people at Yahoo who work on search were not impressed. They responded "Believe it or not, we are still in the early days of search. As all of us at Yahoo agree, we're in it for the long haul, and we're in it to win."

Yahoo's approach to finding things on the web started out very differently from Google's, based on human editors who would go around the web, find sites, and then categorize them in to a directory. This is how Yahoo organized information from 1994 until 2002, when it switched to using Google's crawler-based results. It wasn't until 2004 when Yahoo dropped Google and built out its own crawler-based search solution.

This may explain Yahoo's fascination with "social search" and "the wisdom of the crowds", as both are based on people organizing information for others to consume. Today, unlike 1994, there so many people online that you don't need to hire human editors. People will do the work for you as a natural process of using the Internet.

For example, Yahoo recently bought, a social web bookmark website, and Flickr, a photo sharing website. Both of these sites are organizing the world's information, yet they are doing it through human editors. Humans will bookmark websites using, out of which grows an organization structure and rating system (people bookmark what they find interesting). Flickr works similarly where people will take photos and tag them and put them in to pools, so that when you're looking for pretty flowers, you're much better off going to Flickr than Google because you have the ability to see who thought it was pretty, and whether or not you agree with them.

Business Week writes: "By cultivating online communities -- and encouraging people to tap into the collective knowledge of these groups -- Yahoo is hoping to change the way people find information online."

Yahoo is not alone in providing services the use the power of humans to help others find information (companies like YouTube, Digg and Yelp come to mind), and tends to be better at it than Google, which has yet to create anything that can compete with Flickr or

RSS and push provide other possibilities as Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo explains: "[Our new VP] also talked a bit about searching 'without a search box' in the not too distant future. Information may arrive on you screen (computer, television, cellular phone, etc) as you need it—without having to ask. It's one of the many ways search will be reinvented. Those of you using RSS aggregators and news alert services have seen just faintest glimpse of what's going to be possible."

In this light, I hope Slide can make a contribution to help organize information and make it accessible and useful. One system we just released that brings information to your desktop as you need it is a push-based delivery mechanism for eBay auctions. If you go to and search for "Nikon D70", Slide will query eBay for you, aggregate the search results and produce a show of the results and push them to your Slide Player (available for Windows, Mac and the web). It will also continue to monitor eBay for you, adding new items as they are added.

With slide, auctions come to you — solution for buyers and sellers

This technique can be applied to other areas as well (dating comes to mind) because the fundamental need for content aggregation and distribution applies broadly.

Posted by johnnie at February 5, 2006 12:22 PM


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