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Yahoo's retort to my previous post

A day after I posted about Google's personalized search launch, I now find myself demo-ing Yahoo's "My Web 2.0 BETA"* (the logo for which tips its hat to the Flickr folks).

In terms of features, Yahoo's response is to see Google's personalization + search history and add in social bookmarking (del.icio.us-like) and social networks (Yahoo 360). This is an impressive array of functionality, but does an impressive feature list make for an impressive experience? Review in the extended.

  • social bookmarking: This is not a del.icio.us killer, and perhaps it isn't trying to be. The focus of the del.icio.us UI is on sharing your bookmarks and tags; it's URL naming scheme makes it easy to share these bookmarks with others (e.g. http://del.icio.us/nowhun/architecture are my 'architecture' bookmarks), it is easy to surf the bookmarks of other people who have bookmarked the same pages, and it is easy to export your bookmarks into RSS. My Web, on the otherhand, often requires traversing multiple pages to find the tag(s) you're looking for, it doesn't consistently order the bookmarks, there's no easy URL shortcut for getting to a particular tag, and I can't figure out any easy way of sharing my bookmarks with other people -- short of requiring them to sign up for Yahoo 360 and become my contact. My Web is a walled-off sandbox, fun to play in, but one where your friends have to come to Yahoo if they want to play in it.
  • personalization: I can't find any evidence that My Web 2.0 actually personalizes your search results. At the top of my search results it is listing matches within my own bookmarks, but this akin to helping me find pages I've already found and categorized. If you build up your social network, it will also list matching bookmarks within your community, but this is also pretty limited in terms of searching the Web as a whole. To test it's personalization of search results, I tried to queries that I thought were ambiguous enough to test personalization: "Armstrong" and "Foster."
    • "Foster": My expectation was to see Norman Foster at the top of the results (5 'foster' tags in my bookmarks, and about 41 'architecture' tags total). Store a copy of this page.
    • "Armstrong": My expectation was to see Lance Armstrong at the top of the results (3 'armstrong' tags and 2 other 'cycling' tags). Yahoo's result was Armstrong flooring manufacturers, followed by 2 Louis Armstrong results, then Armstrong Air Conditioning, and finally, Lance Armstrong.
  • social networks: My Web is backed by Yahoo 360. This is both good and bad, good in the sense that they made the obvious integration with their own service, bad in that Yahoo 360 is like a battleaxe where a pocketknife would do. I can understand the requirement that you have to have a Yahoo account to be a contact, that's par for the course, but why can't I just add Yahoo! Messenger contacts or any Yahoo! screenname for that matter? The chance of my friends signing up for Yahoo 360 at this point is approaching zero, so I view the chance of getting my friends to sign up for two Yahoo services, just to share bookmarks, as a big fat zer0. Part of me also wishes for the day in which I can say "This del.icio.us user is my contact," and the service will read in that user's bookmarks using the open del.icio.us API.

There is one feature that impressed me: you can save a copy of any page when you bookmark it. I see this as a very big, and useful feature. Too often pages I bookmark, especially news articles, disappear into the ether or behind paid-access archives. In lieu of this sort of feature, I have relied on saving these articles to my computer, which requires extra steps and isn't as ideal as having it accessible online.

I am surprised to see that there are Flickr-folks working on this technology. For whatever reason, the lessons of success from Flickr were not imparted on this service. Flickr, which maintains openness while enticing you with a good community, seems to share few genes with My Web 2.0, which requires that create a community first, share second. The ease and slickness of the Flickr UI is also absent, replaced by occassional incitement to anger when confronted by another stupid My Web 2.0 design choice.

I'd rather stick with Google for now. I can't tell if either is actually personalizing my search results, but at least the URL is simple (I've now mistyped http://myweb2.search.yahoo.com/ 5 times during the course of writing this entry).

Update: After many attempts with various queries, I found my first evidence of 'personalization.' When I searched for 'kwc', my blog (which I have bookmarked with 'kwc') jumped from #3 to #2 in the search results. Woohoo, finding pages I've already found. To be fair, it would appear that my bookmarks (~800 total) account for over 4% of the My Web 2.0 data (both in #page and #tags), so it may be a matter of sparse data.

* The title of Yahoo's service should be parsed as "My Web" (version 2.0 beta), not My "Web 2.0", as there is pretty much nothing in terms of user interface that ties this to what people associate with "Web 2.0" applications. The interface is klunky, with little in-place editing and plenty of multi-page input dialogs that terminate on a useless "finished" page. Also, they want you to install the Yahoo! toolbar, so the bookmarklet for using the service is hidden in the FAQ.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on June 29, 2005 8:10 AM.

The previous post was Google Personalized.

The next post is Nuclear Contact.

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