Google is an investor at Fon and I don’t really use Yahoo Search but having said this, I still think it’s a good intellectual exercise to think about what Yahoo could do to improve its standing as a search engine.
So here are a few ideas I’ve had:
– I would allow users to find out how many other people do the same search. For example when I search Monaco Media Forum I would find a number or a ranking of how popular that search is.
-I would offer search in all Yahoo properties like Yahoo! Mail.
-I would compare my search results with Google in the background and if they deviate a lot I would try to understand who is right.
– I would offer people to tell more about themselves so Yahoo can give them more personalized results. Yahoo could do it with a Facebook app that would allow it to know about you to give you more personalized results. This would in turn allow Yahoo to show you more personalized ads.
– I would let the community act as a filter and beat Google at making search a more Digg-like experience, where each user can vote search results up and down and bury those he thinks are not good enough to be in the first pages. SEO geniuses can now trick Google into believing bad quality AdSense cluttered pages are indeed what’s best around on many topics. Putting search results in the hands of humans, like Mahalo or Wikia Search are doing, can indeed add value by letting people select the best information and results on certain topics.
– I would let the user choose what kind of results he wants to see at the top of search results pages. For example I may want to see Wikipedia as a first result for any city name I search and Linkedin first for any person name I search or Kelkoo for any product search I do and Weather.com for any weather search I do… So I would then use Yahoo! search as a shortcut for all the services I use.
– I would try to innovate on the user interface. Yahoo! Search now looks just like Google, so much that you can hardly tell them apart by looking at the search results. I would differentiate on the user experience, I would make the searching experience faster and better. I would let you scroll through results instead of moving from one search result page to the next, I would show you previews of web pages in AJAX pop-ups when you move your mouse over a search result. I could let you see results as thumbnails and let you zoom on them to get an idea about each page without actually visiting it.
– I would make search more vertical. I would guess from your search terms if you are looking for a job and narrow down the search results to job websites. If you are looking for a hotel I would show you just relevant search results, same for other verticals, like classifieds for houses. I would partner with vertical search websites and show you a preview of their results.
– I would save your search history and when you search for the same thing again I would show you a reminder of what results you visited the previous time, thus save you time when you are looking for that specific result you found the last time, maybe buried in the second or third page.
– I would add “social” to search. I would understand your interests learning from what you usually search for. I would then show you a list of your Yahoo! Mail or Yahoo! Messenger contacts that share your same interests and I would do it on relevant search results pages, so you can find the help of a friend when looking for information on the a PC to buy or where to go for your next vacation.
– I would know your location (Yahoo! also runs Fireagle) and show you local results first.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars