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Friday, December 10, 2004

Yahoo Announces Desktop Search

Yahoo announced yesterday plans to release its desktop search product in about a month, in early January. Yahoo's desktop search will be free and based on X1's desktop search technology, meaning (a) it's more advanced than Google's and (b) it's not really a Yahoo product, no more than this story is about Yahoo DVD players. Still, its another check mark Yahoo can claim, and in the current phase of the search war the emphasis is on having all the products everyone else has, so I guess its a good thing. It is also a good thing for consumers, since we get a (likely slimmed down) version of X1 for free.

MSN Desktop Search, an in-house product that integrates with the operating system, is expected sometime this month, and leaked info pointed to a powerful product. Google Desktop Search, despite making a big splash in October, has fallen from the public interest as better (but not free) products received major press, free publicity they owe to Google. Will we see a GDS 1.5 upgrade by February? Considering that the MSN Toolbar quickly overtook the Google Toolbar despite not being a better product (and tied to a bad search engine), its a given that MSN Desktop Search will beat Google's if GDS doesn't see a new version.

As for Yahoo? We'll have to see how it differs from MSN and regular X1 before predictions can be made. Yahoo released a slide comparing it to "the competition", and here's the data:
 Yahoo Competitors 
Relevance Ability to pivot data by any dimension:
recency, creator, recipient, type, etc.
Ranking only by date and relevance
ComprehensivenessAbility to index 225+ data types, email attachments5 data types, attachments not indexed
FreshnessV1.0 Beta: Scheduled in increments
V1.0: near real time
Near real time
PresentationRich native user-interface
Search-as-you-type, previews, post-search actions
Limited to HTML rendering
So, what have we learned?  More ways to search and sort data, more file types, email attachments, an interface, search-as-you-type.  No real-time indexing (and don't expect the final release to be real-time, just smaller increments), no explanation of how it searches the more file types (does it list them, or can it read meta-data?), and I don't like search-as-you-type (unnecessary, slow, and annoying).  Does this list make a better product than Google's?  Yes and no.  It's more usable, but how much more usable is unclear.  It's certainly not as good as Apple's Spotlight, and I expect MSN Desktop Search to be more similar to Spotlight than either Yahoo or Google.  Of course, this info is still very vague, and the product we see in January could be the best yet, making us look at out MSN Search that we installed weeks before and consider switching.

Notice that when Yahoo says "Competitors", its clearly working off of Google's feature list.  I hope this doesn't mean they're only looking to Mountain View for competition, because they'll just get clipped from behind.

Coverage so far:
Financial Times - Like Google's desktop tool, the Yahoo product will initially make it easier to find email and files stored on the hard drive of a PC. The internet company then plans to extend the software to draw in other personal information stored on servers over the web, said Mr Weiner.
Yahoo's search tool is based on technology developed by X1, a start-up created by Bill Gross, head of internet incubator Idealab.
Mr Gross was also the architect behind, which later changed its name to Overture and was bought by Yahoo last year for $1.6bn. By giving advertisers a way to link their messages to relevant internet search results, Overture has been core to Yahoo's effort to create an alternative to search juggernaut Google.

CNet - The Yahoo-branded application, available in early January, will let people search their PCs as well as the Web via Yahoo Search, but future iterations will include navigation for Yahoo's instant messenger archives, address book and free e-mail service.
Associated Press - ... and Ask Jeeves Inc., which runs several online search engines, plans to unveil its
desktop offering next Wednesday.

Washington Post

John Battelle - ... the FT, which I think (inadvertently, I am sure) broke an embargo to publish this (I have seen a demo and was planning on posting late tonight or in the morning)... (By the way, I'm told that Ask will launch its desktop search product next week, Dec. 15th, to be exact.)
Seattle PI

UPDATE: AOL's desktop search, based on Copernic, is coming:
And AOL? The company plans its own desktop search application that is packaged as part of the new AOL browser that's in beta testing. Any AOL member can access this by signing into AOL, then using the keyword "beta" to reach the beta download area. I've just downloaded the beta but haven't had a chance to play with it. But the desktop search is powered by Copernic, another well regarded desktop search app. It was CNET's editor's choice in a recent review of desktop search apps. (Google Desktop was unrated in that review because it was too new but drew plenty of praise).
Andy Beal says X1 is very slow and processor consuming, while Copernic is much easier on the system. Did Yahoo pick the wrong dance partner?


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