Yahoo Turns on Wikipedia SearchMonkey App but Twitter Is the BOSS


Yahoo unleashes the SearchMonkey Wikipedia application, a Web service that augments Yahoo search results with Wikipedia articles. Will SearchMonkey, a jewel of application development for Yahoo, fall prey to new CEO Carol Bartz’ plans for the search engine and Web service giant? Meanwhile, a Yahoo programmer builds TweetNews, a mashup of Yahoo news search results that leverages popular Twitter tweets.

Yahoo last year created SearchMonkey, a bid to open up its vaunted search platform to let programmers add additional context and visual improvements to the results.

SearchMonkey, the first leg of Yahoo’s Open Strategy that rewires Yahoo’s Web services to provide users an irresistible experience, got a boost 15th January when Yahoo said it has turned on its Wikipedia SearchMonkey app for U.S. users.

This app adds appropriate photos to corresponding Wikipedia articles, deep links to the first four sections of the article and a snippet pulled from the article summary. The app is culled from Wikipedia Enhanced Results and Infobars, the primary modes of contextual Web creation in SearchMonkey, that programmers have built over the past few months.

“After observing how people used these apps, we’ve gathered the best elements of each, we gathered the best elements from each and built a new app,” the SearchMonkey team wrote.

Yahoo uses post-modern furniture as an example, noting that a search for Eames chairs will bring up two Wikipedia results for two of their famous chairs. Users can choose which one they prefer and click a deep link to jump to an answer.

Wikipedia isn’t the only site programmers have played with on SearchMonkey; there are SearchMonkey apps for HowStuffWorks, Babelfish Translations, Merriam-Webster and, among others.

This Wikipedia app has been turned on by default, but users may opt to use other apps by tweaking their search preferences here.

While innovation on SearchMonkey continues, the question will be what new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz will do with the company. Will Bartz sell it all or just sell search to Microsoft? Yahoo enjoys the No. 2 search market share slot behind giant Google, so there are clearly plenty of users that could access SearchMonkey.

Will she let Yahoo Open Strategy blossom even though it’s no lock to make money? These are key questions facing Yahoo. For the moment, users can enjoy the contextual Web fruits developers are creating in Search Monkey, Yahoo BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service), Yahoo Social Platform and other components.

Speaking of BOSS, the Web services platform that lets company programmers create search products powered by Yahoo Search, a member of the BOSS team used the service to create a new search app that offers news results and ranks them based on their recent popularity in Twitter.

Vik Singh, a programmer on Yahoo’s BOSS team, created TweetNews. This search engine mashes up Yahoo’s news search results by mashing them up with similar, popular topics on Twitter to get fresher results.

TweetNews, which is hosted on Google App Engine, also overlays related tweets under results if they exist. The idea behind this is speed, and TweetNews works in real-time, beating Google News and Yahoo news to the punch.

For example, Singh searched for “NBA” using Yahoo’s news search ordered by latest results. The results was up to the minute but provided a vague result about teams that are in a different league of basketball than the NBA. A search for NBA on TweetNews showed the Kings/Warriors triple OT game highlight which was buzzing more in Twitter.

“There’s something very interesting here,” Singh wrote. “Twitter as a ranking signal for search freshness may prove to be very useful if constructed properly.”