Removing Barriers to Entry
Raghavan envisions attracting start-ups seeking to build services in the field of social search--where the search results users see are influenced by what their friends find interesting.
He sees the rise of industry-specific search firms focused on medical or finance, for example, or visual search, which allows users to search by image rather than by text.
Two early partners Yahoo has signed up to work on Boss are personalized search start-up Me.dium and natural language firm Hakia, which relies on semantic search technology similar to that of Powerset, which Microsoft recently agreed to acquire.
First Amazon.com, and lately Google have adopted a similar approach by allowing start-ups and other companies to rent access to their massive data centers, storage and certain Web applications. But Yahoo is going several steps further by giving access to sophisticated search technology.
BOSS is the second phase of Yahoo's year-long effort to remake its Web search strategy. In April, Yahoo introduced SearchMonkey, a service that allows Web site owners and developers to control how Yahoo searches appear on their site.
SearchMonkey allows a site aimed at feline fanciers to display a version of Yahoo search that only has pictures of cats. BOSS goes far beyond how Yahoo search might appear on a Web site to allow a developer to tinker with the basic mechanisms of Yahoo search to build separate services.
BOSS gives creators of new search services deep access to Yahoo search technology including query handling, search ranking, indexing and Web crawling under any label they choose.
Eventually, Yahoo plans to require that customers run Yahoo search advertising alongside searches in exchange for the tools. The strategy for so-called "search monetization" for BOSS will be revealed in the future, Yahoo officials said.
Beyond the commercial potential for BOSS, Yahoo said it is working with top universities including the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Purdue, MIT and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. This promises to allow computer scientists to perform academic research on search trends across the entire Web, something never before affordable due to the cost of such operations.