Yahoo simplifies access to BOSS search development platform

Developers can now sign up online and start working on applications in a matter of hours

Yahoo will introduce on Wednesday several new features in its Search BOSS application development platform intended to make it easier for programmers and Web publishers to adopt and use.

Search BOSS, which developers use to create custom search engines on top of Yahoo's infrastructure, will now offer a "self-service" platform for which developers can sign up online, log into their account and start using in a matter of hours.

Until now, that process was much more cumbersome, involving the drafting of a custom contract, which had to be signed on paper and submitted for approval, which in turn could take weeks or months to finalize.

"The goals we're aiming for with this self-service platform is agility, flexibility and creativity," said Shashi Seth, Yahoo's senior vice president of search and marketplaces, in an interview.

Search BOSS, which stands for Build Your Own Search Service, currently is used by thousands of developers whose applications generate about 100 million search queries per day.

In addition to the new self-service platform, Search BOSS will now let developers host their search applications on Yahoo data centers, whereas before they needed to procure their own servers. BOSS Hosted Search is free of charge and available now.

Yahoo is also introducing Site Search, a feature that automates and streamlines the creation of a website search engine, which visitors can then use to find content on its Web pages.

Another new feature is BOSS Shortcuts, which generates suggestions for other content a website visitor might be interested in based on the topics of the articles and pages he's reading.

Site Search and Shortcuts are now available in limited form, with general availability scheduled for later.

Also new is an expansion of the capabilities of the Search BOSS API (application programming interface), including a simplification of the process to sign up for and access Yahoo ads to run with Search BOSS applications. Developers get a slice of the ad revenue generated by their applications' ads.

IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds called the adjustments a welcome step forward for developers. They also bring the search resources available from Yahoo much closer to the kinds of services site developers have been able to access from Google, he said.

Search BOSS's future came into question after Yahoo signed its search partnership with Microsoft in mid-2009, so it is good to see Yahoo continue to invest in the program, he said.

"These enhancements indicate that Yahoo gets the importance of this network of search activity and expertise in making the Yahoo brand relevant to publishers and advertisers," Reynolds said via email.

Earlier this year, Yahoo established a fee structure for Search BOSS], including a top-tier option, called Full Web, which includes result links to general Web pages, images and news articles at a cost of US$0.80 per 1,000 queries.

Also available is a less expensive tier, Limited Web, which draws its results from a smaller index that isn't refreshed as often as the one Full Web uses, and costs $0.40 per 1,000 queries. Yahoo also offers developers options for an image-only index ($0.30 per 1,000 queries) and for a news article-only index ($0.10 per 1,000 queries).

Juan Carlos Perez covers search, social media, online advertising, e-commerce, web application development, enterprise cloud collaboration suites and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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