Yahoo Search Assist Knows When You Need It

Yahoo‘s new search engine launched Tuesday morning, and I’ve been meaning to post more about it as I took part in a live demo/beta for a bit before.

While there are other new features, the most prominent is called Search Assist, a box that appears at the top (which can be closed if the user prefers) that recommends related search concepts to help refine the search.

As Vish Makhijani, SVP of Yahoo Search, showed me, Search Assist kicks in when it thinks the searcher needs a hand. One way it does this is by studying the rate of your keystroke; a very quick, directed search, even for a complex query, won’t bring up Assist, but entering that same query in a few letters a time will.

It’s a new form of a site responding to user behavior, and it signifies a new level of complexity in online intelligence. It’s not about the user or the query here – it’s the way it’s entered.

Time will tell how much Yahoo Search benefits from this, but it may well begin a new arms race among search engines and other sites to see who can do this most effectively.

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