Yahoo this week announced that they see the future of search results as something called WOO. While this raises the strong possibility that Yahoo’s entire search team has been replaced with drunken sorority girls, the video on Kara Swisher’s blog of Yahoo’s Guy Raghavan confirms that there is at least one Guy on the search team. And he’s a guy.
WOO actually stands for something – “Web Of Objects”, and aside from sounding like the name of a math-rock band it appears to mean the ways in which Yahoo will be compiling and displaying searchers in the future. Not that you would know this from Yahoo’s own search blog which remains, at the time of this posting, conspicuously WOO-less.
WOO basically posits that users are searching more often for a thing – a video, a picture, a new car, rather than a website. They can get to those things by way of a website but hey, why not cut out the middleman?
While for some searches this is undoubtedly true – I’m more interested in seeing Keyboard Cat than I am in the website that hosts it – this is a bit reductivist when it comes to other search types.
More importantly, isn’t this just a dumb name for universal search? Rather than seeing the blue links on the white background people already see news content, videos, and pictures show up in results. It’s not practical to eliminate links entirely so even if Yahoo plans on amping up the level of this content it won’t supplant traditional results entirely.
What it does do is force something we’ve been talking about for quite some time now, the reorganization of results on the search page. All indications are that the next generation of Live search will include tools and a layout that surfaces certain types of information that might previously have ranked past the first page of results. Kosmix, for all its shortcomings, posits a viable way of bringing more social media content and results further up without losing relevance.
Google’s recently rolled out Wonder Wheel (which seems to constantly be changing in terms of what it displays as links to my name, and not for the better) and Timeline features also seek to repackage existing search data and crawled information to bring users more relevant information.
So Yahoo’s WOO may be more of a “Meh.”
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