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Yahoo challenges Google with instant search

Yahoo Search Direct 'delivers more direct answers'

Yahoo has started beta testing a search feature that displays answers to queries and links to websites on the fly as people type their queries.

Yahoo officials said that Search Direct is proof that the company is still very much a player in the search market and an innovator in this space, despite its search partnership with Microsoft.

"Search is incredibly important," said Blake Irving, Yahoo's chief product officer, during a press conference. "Search matters to customers and it matters to us."

Irving said that Search Direct is a great example of how Yahoo has been able to focus on the search user experience while relying on Microsoft for back-end functions, like website crawling and indexing.

With Search Direct, users get query results as they type, without having to finish the query, hit Enter or scan the results page, according to Yahoo.

With the feature's speed, Yahoo believes that Search Direct will attract the attention of users and boost usage of its search engine. "It's a super-powerful results set," Irving said.

'Less clicking'

Industry analyst Greg Sterling from Sterling Market Intelligence called Search Direct a good idea whose implementation still needs work.

"It's consistent with what users want: less of clicking through result links," Sterling said. "However, the execution of Search Direct is imperfect at best right now. The current version looks like a place holder for something that will be better and richer."

Yahoo created a separate search platform for Search Direct, including its own index and algorithms.

The feature is similar to Google's Instant, although Yahoo officials on Wednesday said that theirs delivers more direct answers. Also, Google Instant doesn't respond necessarily to every keystroke and it repaints the entire search results page, whereas Search Direct responds to every character typed and its interface is more compact.

Search Direct takes Yahoo further along the path of shifting the focus of its search services away from the conventional list of result links and toward providing direct answers, officials said.

Still to be determined is how Yahoo will integrate ads into Search Direct. For now, Search Direct is available only in the US, but a rollout abroad is planned for later this year.

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