Yahoo today added the ability to query its search engine through a short text message on a mobile phone in the United States.
Yahoo SMS Search can be used to get weather, local listings, stock quotes and other short bits of information, which analysts say is the way we will gather much data in the future.
“I’m a big believer in mobile searching for certain types of information. Obviously if you’re doing deep research, mobile search is not going to work. But for ready information, the idea of sitting in front of a computer is going away,” Gary Price, librarian and news editor of SearchEngineWatch, told TechNewsWorld.
The service works simply. Users punch in the universal short code Yahoo (93466) on their phones. They are then prompted for a shortcut code such as “w” for weather and the city or ZIP code. Then all you have to do is send the message and Yahoo Search will respond in an SMS message.
Yahoo also offers shortcuts for stock quotes (quo), horoscopes (horo), dictionary definitions (def), WiFi hotspots (wifi), area codes (either type the code itself or area code) and ZIP codes (ZIP code and city). To get local listings, type in what you’re looking for and the city or area code, for example: copy shop 11422.
The service is available on selected models of mobile phones through Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
The company also expanded its mobile phone Web search function, Yahoo Search on Mobile, to include WAP-enabled phones. Previously, only HTML-capable devices such as Treo or Blackberry PDAs could access the Web search.
“This is an important move by Yahoo,” Andy Beal, vice president of marketing, WebSourced, told TechNewsWorld. “They sat back and watched Google’s launch of a similar service and have obviously seen that searchers do in fact use their cell phone to access search results.”
Price said that there are several companies that have good SMS search services. He named Symphonic.com, Smarter.com, which offers comparison shopping, and 4Info.net.
Both analysts said that today’s searches are only the beginning.
“While the information available by cell phone today, is somewhat limited, it is clear that cell phones will continue to see many improvements and consequently become more intrinsic in our everyday lives,” Beal said. Price added that while the goal now is to gain eyeballs, the ultimate goal will be to make money.
“Both SMS search and mobile Web search don’t have ads, but I can see relevant ads in the future. They’d obviously have to be targeted and very short,” he said.