30 November 2005 in Search Technology | Comments enabled

Yahoo Mindset Beta Logo

Originally search engines were all about recall – the number of results that got returned for a query. That was fine, but you often didn’t get results you were actually looking for.

Then some chaps from Stanford brought us the wonder of Google – both great recall and pretty good precision (relevance).

The next big area in search will be context sensitive searches.

Context sensitive search means taking into account what you mean with your search. An example that I used recently was if I search on Google for “All Blacks”. Google has no idea if I want to find the All Black website, buy All Black shirts, find the score to the last game, become and All Black etc. It has no context surrounding my search.

I was pleased to see that Yahoo have started investigating this area (I’m sure they all are but Yahoo appears to be the only one with anything publically visible in this domain). They have a beta search called Yahoo Mindset. It’s quite cool – at the moment it’s targeted at allowing you to select a variance between online shopping and academic research in the results displayed.

Yahoo Mindset Slider

It’s very cool – Yahoo have adopted AJAX for this search engine so as you adjust the slider the results automatically reorder themselves based on the context in which you’re searching. I haven’t done too much searching with it yet so I can’t say much on how accurate it is once the context is applied. I’m really hanging out to see them move forward with this – perhaps several contextual sliders, some intelligence around what context types are available for the type of search done (for example, in a specialised area like Apple Computers, to get a slider of “hardware” and “software” would be great).

It’s evident that the data is still being analysed for this new search – when I did a search on C# I was informed that they were currently analysing this search and to retry in a few moments to get more results. It’s very cool to see that sort of transparency in what is going on.

- JD

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