"People don't really want to search," said Prabhakar Raghavan [cq], head of Yahoo Labs and Yahoo's search strategy, in a meeting with reporters in San Francisco on Tuesday. Their objective is to quickly uncover the information they are looking for, not to scroll through a list of links to Web pages.
Yahoo's answer is to try to figure out the "intent" of the person conducting the search, and then present various types of information within the results that relate to what they are looking for, such as restaurant reviews, movie times, flight schedules and so on.
Yahoo showed a slightly different page layout for displaying search results that it's currently testing with users. Search results for the name of a restaurant lead off with a map showing its location, followed by links to an aggregated selection of reviews, photos and directions. Yahoo is revamping its image search in a similar way.
Moving away from the "blue links" is something all the main search companies have been exploring. Even Google, which dominates Web search and has the least to gain from disrupting the status quo, has been blending news, video and other content with its results.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has admitted how tough it is to beat Google at its own game, and suggested that the only way to win market share in search is to change the playing field and do things differently.