In the book The Search, John Battelle compares Yahoo and Google:
"Yahoo makes no pretence of objectivity-it is clearly steering searchers toward its own editorial services, which it believes can satisfy the intent of the search. In effect, Yahoo is saying 'You're looking for stuff on Usher? We got stuff on Usher, and it's good stuff. Try what we suggest; we think it'll be worth your time."
"Apparent in that sentiment lies a key distinction between Google and Yahoo. Yahoo is far more willing to have overt editorial and commercial agendas, and to let humans intervene in search results so as to create media that supports those agendas. Google, on the other hand, is repelled by the idea of becoming a content- or editorially driven company…they approach the task with vastly different stances. Google sees the problem as one that can be solved mainly through technology-clever algorithms and sheer computational horsepower will prevail. Humans enter the search picture only when algorithms fail and then only grudgingly."
What Battelle makes is that Google's approach – using technology- 'the machine' and algorithm to solve indexing world's information. I tend to think of it as 'content based' search: index based on content text rather than the semantic meaning of it and search based on keyword appearances and PageRank to decide its weight.
On the other hand Yahoo is taking an editorial approach on searching. It integrates human to drive search, helping searchers force on search intention. 'What you are really looking for?' By typing search keyword 'Usher' do you mean music artist Usher's lyrics or buying an Usher' music CD?
In my opinion this intention based search is one step higher than content based search, though it intrinsically comes with scalability issue. How many people Yahoo needs to satisfy the world?
Here is where Web 2.0 cutting in. The essence of Web 2.0 is collaborate and share information. Build social network by interaction of surfers. Web users self-govern, actively participate in virtual communities, engaging with each other. Web users can also help each other on driving intent based search using new emerging technology like tagging: Reading something interesting/disgusting? Right click the mouse on the page and throw in a keyword, which is then stored in an indexing machine (may well be from Yahoo or Google) together with the URL. On the back of this, the index machine scan and sort the tag with other tags that already add to this article (URL) and apply some smart algorithm…
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