Can Yahoo! just be a Portal?

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The big news of the week was that Yahoo! and Microsoft’s search agreement was approved by both the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission. Yahoo! is now closer to replacing their search, and search advertising product with Bing’s.

From what has been said, up to Yahoo!’s latest post on the matter, Yahoo! is going to stop being a search engine and simply focus on providing enriched data. In their words:

1) Providing you with rich results that display the most relevant information from Yahoo!’s rich content properties, as well as other great product, local, entertainment, reference, social and tech sites.

2) Showing specific results from vertical search products, like Yahoo! News.

3) Providing handy tools on the left-side of the page, such as our Search Pad and Search Scan apps, site filters that help you refine and explore the search results more easily, and related search term suggestions to help you refine your search further if the results aren’t quite what you were looking for.

Yahoo! seems to see itself as a portal, and is operating as if a portal can be distinct from a search engine. However, Google and Bing have taken a different approach, and have demonstrated that a search engine can become a portal. The inclusion of many Google properties, such as Maps, Base and so on, onto their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) has been discussed at length for years now. Bing has also chosen to follow a similar path, and have developed a suite of additional products of their own. Both Google and Microsoft also have email products that include social functionality in Google Buzz and Windows Live. It is interesting that while a portal site is moving away from search, search is moving towards becoming portals.

Yahoo! SERP for Vancouver

Google SERP for Vancouver

Bing SERP for Vancouver

A lot of what Yahoo! has discussed that they can bring to the Internet as a part of their portal business is already provided as a part of the Google and Bing search experience, or as a part of their additional properties. Where we are with search in terms of the richness of data that can be sorted and surfaced in search, each SERP is essentially a portal site. Depending on the term, photos, news, blogs, social commentary and maps can all be presented on the SERP as an algorithmically generated themed portal page. In getting out of search Yahoo! is limiting itself to competing with Bing and Google purely on content that they have the rights to, their existing user-base and presentation of information.

Is this enough? Both Google and Bing are creating more and more properties. Both Google and Bing have been developing more inventory requiring very little ongoing maintenance and have been rolling them into their main SERPs. With the inclusion of more user generated content such as social media updates and personalised search from Google, and Flickr content in Bing Maps and an apparent focus on travel indicated in their PR, how much value can Yahoo! provide as just a portal?

2 responses to “Can Yahoo! just be a Portal?”

  1. […] Shop and Share with Bing was announced earlier this week. Integrating sharing links within product searches is not exactly groundbreaking. The idea that social proof works to drive purchasing behaviour online is not new. A number of different sites such as (now gone), ThisNext and Amazon through their ratings and owned product lists support this. What is interesting is that this is another way in which Search Engines are beginning to act like portals. […]

  2. […] many ways SERPs are becoming more like portal content pages. Search goes beyond an ordered directory of URLs and descriptions. Content including maps, scanned […]

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