Welcome the (Yahoo!) BOSS

Yahoo! Inc recently announced the release of BOSS – its open search (web-service based) platform. BOSS (Build your Own Search Service) exposes Yahoo Search through an App ID and a web-service. It will be interesting to see how BOSS matures around two main search engine buzz-words: vertical search and semantic search capabilities. I spent some time trying out BOSS on some of my favorite problems (Yes, I am going to share the URL on my website soon!). Here is a quick catch-up on the ‘cool’ and ‘not-so-cool’ BOSS features.

  1. Vertical Search Engines: It is not easy to construct a vertical search engine and use BOSS for searching on a few thousand sites. BOSS doesn’t support search for multiple sites (in fact it does it wrongly if you try to search for multiple sites through the web-service), nor does it allow regular expressions for sites to search. This doesn’t add up well for building up your own little vertical search engine. Google’s Custom Search Engine scores way higher on this one. With easy to configure websites and ability to tweak with the relevance and configurations Google CSE definitely scores higher. But BOSS has just arrived; I am sure changes will pour in soon.
  2. Semantic Search: Hakia has done it; many more will follow! This is a good value proposition by Yahoo and is primarily aimed at spicing-up the horizontal search market. It provides developers and researchers to try out their own versions of relevance and mash-ups on top of Yahoo’s rich information source. This however operates on a horizontal search model.
  3. Multi-modal Search: Yahoo has done a good job in providing Image and News Search features. Image searches however have relatively fewer use-cases, especially if the search is not based on Image content. A Riya like visual-search would have been awesome.

Currently there are no query limits on BOSS, but with rapidly increasing usage and adoption this is bound to change. The monetization abilities in both Yahoo and Google open search platforms is fairly limited and concentrates around Ads-World. For small enterprises and start-ups the ability to use these applications is therefore cumbersome, especially if the value proposition is being built around a vertical search model.

On a related note, Yahoo’s partnership with Hakia comes at an interesting time with Microsoft completing the Powerset acquisition. The semantic search war is catching up some steam!

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