Yahoo enhances and broadens access to Search Pad tool

Yahoo will significantly expand on Tuesday the number of people who can test its Search Pad service, an online notebook for saving and sharing notes, links and Web site content when conducting research using the company's search engine.

Search Pad, announced in February, has been in limited testing, but now Yahoo will make it available to people in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.

Yahoo has refined and broadened the service's features since unveiling it, such as adding ways to share its content, previously limited to e-mail. Search Pad content can now be shared through Yahoo's Delicious social bookmarking service, Facebook and Twitter. However, Search Pad is still considered to be in a beta test period.

Search Pad combines functionality from online notebooks and social bookmarking sites, but since it is a feature of Yahoo's search engine, Search Pad has a very specific purpose, unlike standalone notepad-type Web applications.

Thus, Yahoo doesn't foresee Search Pad replacing Delicious. Rather, Yahoo describes Search Pad as an "online personal research assistant" designed to let people capture information they find for specific projects, such as a major purchase, a vacation or a party.

Yahoo hopes that Search Pad will become an online option for people who save information they find on the Web in word processing files or scraps of paper, and by creating browser bookmarks.

"We’ve been paying attention to this customer need for some time and on how to address it. Other search engines aren't addressing it," said Tom Chi, senior director of user experience at Yahoo.

As such, Search Pad is intended as a tool to strengthen Yahoo's search engine and make it more attractive to end users, as the company strives to improve its position in the search market against dominant leader Google.

Google has an online notebook, but the company has stopped developing the product.

People don't need a Yahoo account to use Search Pad, but Yahoo members who log in while using it will be able to save their research sessions.

Search Pad will be on by default when people with access to it begin using Yahoo's search engine, and if it detects that a person is conducting research, it will ask if the person is taking notes.

If the user answers "yes," Search Pad will display a pop-up window with the sites the person has visited about the specific research topic, along with a description and a thumbnail of each page.

However, people can also launch Search Pad manually by clicking on its drop-down menu, located on the upper part of the search page on the right-hand column.

Currently, Search Pad works only with Yahoo's main Web search engine, not with the company's specialty engines for news, images and the like.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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