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March 8, 2007

Who’s in your knowledge network?

You’ve got a burning question and you know someone out there has got the answer. We’ve all been in this situation and for over 90 million people worldwide, spanning 20 countries, and 9 languages, Yahoo! Answers has been the answer. The topics are varied – food & drink, relationships, pets, tattoos, baseball, consumer electronics, and everything in between – but the experience is the same. Ask your question and get an answer from the Answers community. And with over 250 million answers so far, this community has managed to help a lot of people.

But even with all that knowledge being shared, one of the biggest pieces of feedback we’ve gotten from our users is to make Answers “smarter”, enabling them to get even better answers to their questions and connect to the smart people they know in (and out of) Answers. Well today, we think Yahoo! Answers just got a little bit smarter.

We just added a new capability to Answers, the Yahoo! Answers Network – currently in beta, which enables you to build your own personal knowledge network. So what exactly is a knowledge network? Simply put, it enables you to directly connect with people whose knowledge you value so you can easily share knowledge and discover interesting information on topics you care about.

More specifically, the Yahoo! Answers Network enables you to see if any of your contacts have asked a question, provided a great answer, or simply “starred” a question they found interesting. Here’s a screenshot from the Answers homepage of a user that has built out their Network:

peeps.jpg

By adding people to your network, Answers becomes a more personal, productive, and interesting experience, enabling you to tap into the knowledge of your network. There are two easy ways to build your network: 1) add anyone you find interesting in Answers simply by clicking “Add to My Contacts” – just mouse over their picture or go to their profile page; 2) invite your friends to join you on Answers. The bigger your network, the more likely you are to receive useful, timely answers to your questions from people who you know have the answers. In the end, Answers gets smarter for you because you’ll get smarter answers.

For details on how it works click here, and for even more information check out the Answers blog. The Answers Network is optional so you can opt out if you’d like. And as the Yahoo! Answers Network is currently in beta, we look forward to your feedback.

In just over a year, Yahoo! Answers has grown into a global community. The knowledge, expertise, wisdom, opinions, and personal experiences that are shared are truly astounding and unique to the Web, and we like to think, to Yahoo!. We hope that the addition of the Answers Network will allow our users to create lasting connections with one another and improve their lives and their communities.

Come build your personal knowledge network and grow what you know.

Elizabeth Douglas
Yahoo! Answers

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March 6, 2007

Toolbar Tips and Tricks

Since Yahoo! Search is the most commonly used feature on the Yahoo! Toolbar, I thought it would be helpful to share a handful of search-based productivity hacks our toolbar team uses to help squeeze a little more juice out of the toolbar’s search box:

Yahoo! Toolbar for IE:

  • When using IE, press Alt-S to put the cursor directly into the Yahoo! Toolbar search box.
  • Once the cursor is in the search box, you can use the arrow keys to traverse the buttons and menus.
  • Right-click any button or menu to open its link automatically in a new window (instead of in the current browser window).
  • With Smart Tools Y.jpg enabled (Toolbar Options under Settings menu), you can select text on the web page, by tabbing over the desired content. A little Y! icon appears to help you easily search the web, look up in the dictionary and translate, in addition to other options as well.
  • Right-click on a web page to easily Bookmark it or send it to a friend.

Yahoo! Toolbar for Firefox:

  • Search Suggest: As you type in Yahoo! Toolbar, you will see suggestions of other common searches.
  • Yahoo! menu: Yahoo! Toolbar puts a Yahoo! menu in the Firefox browser that duplicates all the links from the Toolbar (enabled in Toolbar Options under Settings menu). This is primarily to provide access to people with special computing needs, so that they can get to all the links on their Yahoo! Toolbar should they not be able to use a mouse or other device to point on the toolbar. But it’s also an additional convenient way for anyone to get to their favorite links.

Yahoo! Toolbar, both IE and Firefox:

  • In newer versions, you can click and grab the little arrows near the right of the search box to drag and change the search box width.
  • All Search Shortcuts work from Yahoo! Toolbar search box (i.e. Local Weather: [city] weather)
  • Translate button: Under the Add/Edit buttons from the Settings menu, you can add a Translate button. This button will translate web pages to English, and has menu links to Babel Fish to translate words and bodies of text too.

Try ‘em out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Duke Fan
Yahoo! Toolbar Team

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March 1, 2007

Our Apologies to you, Rand…

It wasn’t our intention Rand, but we appreciate the humor (and awkwardness) of your situation. So please accept our apology and our peace offering – an olive branch:

olive branch.jpg

But in all seriousness, given the recent, well publicized changes to Yahoo! Search and our search advertising platform, we appreciate that many of you are sharing your stories. We are listening and your feedback continues to influence our product development efforts.

Now Rand, about this photo

Raj Gossain
Yahoo! Search

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February 28, 2007

Yahoo! Search Support for ‘NOYDIR’ Meta Tags and Weather Update

We’re adding support for the Meta tag called ‘NOYDIR’ that will complement the ‘NOODP’ Meta tag, which we already support. If you’re unfamiliar, the ‘NOODP’ Meta tag is basically a way for webmasters to indicate that Open Directory Project (ODP) titles and abstracts will not be used in search results for their pages. While we continue to pull from various sources to provide the best title and abstract for a given page in search results, we realize that webmasters may still want the ability to exclude titles and abstracts from the Yahoo! Directory. So, as promised, we’re providing support for ‘NOYDIR’ which will recognize the following Meta tags on your pages:

<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOYDIR">

or

<META NAME="Slurp" CONTENT="NOYDIR">

For pages with this tag, we will not use Yahoo! Directory titles or abstracts for your URL in web search results. This will grant webmasters the ability to participate in the Yahoo! Directory Submit program and benefit from inclusion in the Yahoo! Directory, while maintaining control over URL titles and abstracts in search. This will not have any effect on the Yahoo! Directory Search experience, which will continue to use the Yahoo! Directory and title abstract information.

We are re-indexing content on the web to launch this change, and you should immediately begin to see the changes on Yahoo! US, Yahoo! Japan and Yahoo! Korea. (Other regions will roll-out in the future.) This will be accompanied by the usual ranking changes and page shuffling that is typical of weather updates.

If you have any questions, please refer to our webmaster resources page or visit the Site Explorer Suggestion Board.

Thanks!

Priyank Garg
Product Manager, Yahoo! Search

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February 26, 2007

Keeping Ad Tracking and Dead URLs out of Yahoo! Search

We’re often asked how Yahoo! Search determines which pages get indexed and which pages are left un-crawled. First and foremost, we honor the industry-standard robots.txt file format, which gives Webmasters several layers of control over which sites, pages and specific URLs should be indexed. Lately we’ve heard from a number of Webmasters asking how best to prevent ad tracking URLs and dead URLs from getting indexed, so we thought we’d respond via this post.

Ad tracking URLs
Ad tracking URLs are used by Webmasters to help determine what traffic is coming in from advertisements (e.g., Yahoo! Sponsored Search and Yahoo! Publisher Network) but aren’t necessary to include in the Yahoo! Search index. Sometimes you might notice that these URLs still appear in the index. That’s because they’ve appeared on pages that are “crawlable” or may have been copied over to crawlable pages by users. If you don’t want Yahoo! Slurp, our Web crawler to index these URLs you can use wildcards in robots.txt. For example, if you are using the parameter ‘ref’ to track ad sources, you can use a rule like the one below to keep your tracking URLs from being Slurped:

User-Agent: Yahoo! Slurp
Disallow: /*ref=YahooPublisherNetwork

Dead URLs
The best way to remove dead URLs from the Yahoo! Search index is to return an HTTP Error 404 when our crawler requests the page. If you want to act before the 404 discovery and URL removal process completes, you can use Site Explorer to quickly delete the URLs from the index. One advantage to using Site Explorer is that you can delete multiple URLs including an entire subpath so long as the URL prefix is the same. As Danny Sullivan points out in his deep-dive post on the delete function, if you delete http://domain.com/subarea1/, then all the pages that begin with “domain.com/subarea1” will get removed. E.g.:

http://domain.com/subarea1/page1.html
http://domain.com/subarea1/page45.html

We’ll continue to visit the Yahoo! Search blog to give Webmasters like you pointers on how to better manage your sites in the Yahoo! Search index. Be sure to visit us at the Site Explorer Suggestion Board if there are specific areas that you’d like us address in more detail.

Thanks,

Priyank Garg
Yahoo! Search

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February 23, 2007

Lights, camera, action…

Football season’s over, baseball hasn’t started yet, the NBA & NHL are in the middle of their interminably long seasons – does anyone actually pay attention before the playoffs start? – and March Madness is still 3 weeks away.

So what’s an entertainment-starved person supposed to do? Thankfully the Academy Awards, aka The Oscars, are on this Sunday. Okay, so it’s not exactly the Super Bowl, but it is entertaining. Whether you like the “pre-game” outfit critique, the often interesting opening monologue, or the long, drawn out acceptance speeches, there’s usually something for everyone.

Given how many movie buffs we have here on the search team, we thought we’d burn the candle a bit at both ends and see if we could come up with something fun for all those movie fans using Yahoo! Search. Luckily all that late night pizza & take out Indian food paid off.

Now when you search for movies that are in theaters or coming soon, you’ll see something new on top of the search results page. For example, searching for The Departed the Yahoo! Search Buzz Log favorite for Best Picture, gives you a new Yahoo! Shortcut:

the_departed_shortcut.JPG

These new movie shortcuts are designed to give users a more complete answer to their movie query – movie trailers, user and critic ratings, a brief summary, and movie showtimes – all in one place. Think another film is going to win Best Picture? Try these nominee searches: Babel, The Queen, Little Miss Sunshine, and Letters From Iwo Jima. We used Hollywood CA in honor of the Oscars in my query to get those showtimes, but you can enter your own city or just type the movie title itself.

Some other movies we’re looking forward to seeing, both in theaters now and coming soon include: Pan’s Labyrinth, 300, and a couple we’ve been waiting a long time for – The Simpsons Movie and Transformers.

This is just a first step for our movie shortcuts. We’ll be adding more films, inline showtimes and more trailers to name a few. And look for some more new shortcuts in the future, all part of our mission to continually improve the search experience for our users.

Let us know what you think.

And good luck Marty – We hope you finally get that Oscar.

Raj Gossain & Don Chennavasin
Yahoo! Search

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February 20, 2007

Inspect-our-Gadget – Yahoo! Search Gadget for Vista

Hi, I’m Jonathan from the Yahoo! Desktop Products team. The Yahoo! Search team invited me to write about our latest collaboration, the Yahoo! Search gadget for the Windows Vista Sidebar. My team’s mission is to enable users to access Yahoo! services from anywhere on their personal computer desktop. And while we have quite a few Yahoo! products already available for Windows Vista, today I wanted to focus on our first Vista-only product, the Yahoo! Search gadget.

The Windows Vista Sidebar is a new feature in Vista that, similar to our own Yahoo! Widgets or Apple’s Dashboard, allows you to run mini applications (called gadgets) on your desktop that are connected to the Internet without having to open a browser. Since Yahoo! Search is one of our most popular services, it was a logical choice for our first ever Windows Vista Sidebar gadget. We designed the Yahoo! Search gadget to feel at home in Vista’s new visually rich environment with animations and four shiny colors to choose from. And whether docked in your Sidebar or floating on your desktop, the Yahoo! Search gadget puts Yahoo! Web Search, Answers, Local, Video, and more at your fingertips. Of course, there are a number of other ways to integrate Yahoo! Search into your Vista experience, including search plug-ins for IE7 and Firefox as well as the Yahoo! Toolbar also for IE7 and Firefox.

We’ve got a lot of stuff in the Vista pipeline, including more gadgets and a new Yahoo! Messenger client, which you can preview here. Stay tuned…

Jonathan Strauss
Yahoo! Desktop Products

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