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Yahoo talks tough about its search business

11 February 10 01:43 GMT
By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Web giant Yahoo said it is still in the search game despite falling market share in a business it helped create.

The company held a press event to address what it called "misconceptions" about its search efforts.

Yahoo said a deal to let Microsoft's Bing power searches on its sites might have led many to think Yahoo had abandoned one of its core businesses.

"Yahoo has been in search, is in search and will continue to be in search," said Yahoo's search boss Shashi Seth.

"That is the stake we have put in the ground. We will continue to show innovation and drive lots of great features and products into the marketplace and wow our users," said Mr Seth who took up his post just three weeks ago.

The partnership with Microsoft is still going through the regulatory process but is expected to be finalised in the next few months.

Many bloggers said at the time that the deal signalled Yahoo's departure from search.

Mr Seth admitted to the BBC the view of Yahoo changed as a result.

"I wouldn't say it killed us but it did make a dent. It is going to be a really tough job going forward but I think we are well equipped to do well in that space."

'Web of things'

During the SearchSpeak presentation at its California headquarters, a series of Yahoo executives defended the company's commitment to search, and unveiled a number of products it said will solidify its position in the market.

The features under development were all aimed at producing what Yahoo described as "the next generation of search".

These included a way to look for restaurants on a smartphone using a finger to draw a circle on a map.

Another example included shortcuts to organise related content and a variety of information without having to type in the search bar. Images of albums, audio clips and videos were shown alongside results for the rock band U2.

For nearly a year the company has been categorising information and pulling it together so that queries for things get more than just a list of blue links as the return.

Yahoo called it the "web of things".

"It includes everything in your everyday life," said Larry Cornett, Yahoo's vice-president of search consumer products.

"We are talking about people like celebrities and athletes, but also your friends and the people you are connected to. We are talking about restaurants, stores, places you go, things you are thinking about buying and connecting them in a way you don't have to think about when using search."

'A fighting chance'

Can Yahoo succeed in a market where it is losing ground to both Microsoft's Bing and industry leader Google?

Research group comScore revealed this week that Yahoo's share of US search queries has dropped more than three percentage points to 17% in the past year.

Google has solidified its hold on first place with around 65% of all queries made while Microsoft's Bing has gained share at Yahoo's expense rising to 11% in January.

"I think the market wants a competitive Yahoo," Greg Sterling, of blog SearchEngineLand, told BBC News.

"It doesn't want to see just two players dominate this space. It wants more diversity and innovation and that comes from competition. I give them a fighting chance."

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