April 09, 2007 |
It's hard to dislike Yahoo!, is it not? Why would you? The company’s got a funny name, it’s been working the anything-and-everything angle very well over the years, and though it remains #2 in the search and online advertising businesses, the company’s numbers are still shrouded in black. Things are going well for Yahoo!.
Still, the company is squarely focused on gaining in the specific areas where its main rival has kept a healthy lead. It wants to get an edge on Google, and that’s that. Therefore,Yahoo! is clearly forging ahead by bettering its search profile, and its latest attempt to do so with public experimentation tossed in for good measure is what they’re calling Alpha. The company’s new engine, currently in beta (How interested does the title Yahoo! chose for the engine look now?), is meant to connect more dots for its users in order to keep the user’s effort to attain the desired result to a minimum.
The idea behind Alpha is to ensure that no more than a single search need be done to find something – whatever that something might be. It could be a regular link to a webpage, a photo on Flickr, information delivered on Yahoo! Answers, headlines attained via Yahoo! News – even videos published to YouTube. All of that stuff, however, Yahoo! believes should be available at once. The company’s Alpha engine organizes searches of in-house and outside websites and lays the returns out well. Nothing gets overwhelming, which is unfortunately very common in places around the Web that try to do too many things at once. Execution and organization are critical in the new era of search.
If you imagine that you’ve seen something like Yahoo! Alpha before, you probably have. My Yahoo! is in fact quite close in layout, as is Google Ig; the memory of several other pages you use or have used in the past will likely bring about some feelings of déjà vu. The fact that similarities exist between Yahoo! Alpha and other pages around the Web shouldn’t turn anyone off, however. Sometimes regular is good to have.
The layout of Yahoo! Alpha is simple, but there are some things will and will not like about the engine’s default settings. Firstly, everything but the main Yahoo! Web Search window is “minimized”. Users can expand those areas they wish to view, but minimized-by-default is not something many will enjoy. Traditional searches on the Web return text results. The fact that the same experience is had on Alpha from the get-go shows that Yahoo! isn’t looking to change the game entirely just yet. Hopefully Yahoo! will get more adventurous as development of Alpha goes forth.
Also, as Alpha is fairly premature, browsing through the results by way of the ‘Next’ and ‘Prev’ buttons don’t make for a pleasant experience. Though Alpha doesn’t load all information each and every time you interact with a button, you’re brought to the top of the page after a request for more information, photos, etc., regardless of whether or not the window you’re focused on is at the top, center, or bottom of the page. This can quickly become irritating, especially if you haven’t found what you were looking for placed among the first series of results. Before Alpha emerges from beta, we’d definitely like to see better behavior on the part of the engine.
Overall, Yahoo! Alpha is a good new effort for the company. It’s not every day that Yahoo! is touted as a place of wonderful online experiences, but if the folks behind Alpha keep up with the integration and include Web 2.0 prerequisites like tagging and blog search, all while putting a formidable backbone behind it to serve increasing numbers of users without slow activity or downtime, Yahoo! will have a genuinely appealing alternative to what the king of search now offers to the world.