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Yahoo Search Puts New Research Assistant to Work

Yahoo Search Puts New Research Assistant to Work

Doing an in-depth Internet search often involves a lot of note-taking -- copying and pasting, saving URLs, keeping PDFs open, or even jotting down notes on actual, real-life, non-electronic, made-from-trees paper. Yahoo hopes its new Search Pad tool, currently in limited beta tests, will attract users by automating and tracking certain research activities.

By Walaika Haskins
02/04/09 3:17 PM PT

Yahoo introduced a new feature Wednesday designed to help make online research easier. Dubbed "Search Pad," the new companion search tool will enable users to keep track of Web sites and take notes when conducting online research.

Currently in beta, Search Pad will allow students, information workers and Internet surfers on a mission to do away with cutting and pasting content to a word-processing document or email; bookmarking the search results or a bevy of sites; or simply writing pertinent results down on a sticky pad or notebook. These extra steps, in addition to being sometimes unwieldy, consume a good bit of time and can prove to be a distraction, according to Yahoo.

"One of the big time-wasters for information workers is cutting and pasting. What does that do in terms of time usage? We looked at how much time people spend looking for information, and it's roughly nine to twelve hours a week. That number has not changed since 2001, and that's just at work. One-third of that time is wasted looking for information and not being able to find it. Searches conducted from home require additional time," explained Susan Feldman, an analyst at IDC.

"Searching is an art as well as technology," she told TechNewsWorld.

Search Party

Search Pad attempts to mitigate search time by "intelligently detecting users' research intent," according Yahoo. The feature automatically collects visited sites and provides users with simple tools to organize searches and take notes.

Once triggered, users can edit, delete and re-order notes they have taken about a particular search topic. That information can then be printed out or sent in an email to coworkers, friends and families. Notes can also be saved and accessed at a later date via a user's Yahoo ID.

Although this is not the first time a company has attempted to create an application to make saving search projects easier, said Feldman, this is the first time that all the components have been tied together.

"The problem has been that you needed to have [a feature] that tracks all different kinds of formats, including URLs, PDFs, documents, etc. It's got to have some collaborative capabilities; got to have embedded search because information workers are always looking for stuff, and once they find it they want to use it, share it, move it around, and you also need access to good content," she noted.

Search Engine ISO ...

The new feature should help attract new users to Yahoo's search engine, and also help differentiate that aspect of Yahoo's business from competitors including Google, Microsoft Live Search and Ask.com.

Although some people classify Yahoo as a search engine provider, that's a misnomer, according Feldman.

"Unlike Microsoft Live and Google, Yahoo is a much more diverse company. A lot of people think of it as just a search engine, but that's a mistake. The potential for tying it across their other services is huge," she pointed out.

"Having a research tool that will allow me to go about my research and not have to worry about ... what is the right tool, cutting and pasting, and all that goes into research means we can do what humans do best and not be working until 12 midnight on a Friday night. What we're looking for today is aggregation and not being scattered and floundering during search projects," Feldman concluded.


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