March 1, 2005 6:44 AM PST

Yahoo opens up its search toolbox to developers

NEW YORK--Yahoo announced Tuesday that its search network is embracing Web services and that its commercial subsidiary is taking a new name.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company has created the Yahoo Search Developer Network, which co-founder Jerry Yang is set to introduce at the Search Engine Strategies Conference here. The network will allow software developers to create new applications (with the aid of application programming interfaces, or APIs) on top of Yahoo search, including images, video, news and local search.

In addition, Yahoo is shedding the Overture Services brand roughly 20 months after Yahoo agreed to pay $1.63 billion for the commercial search pioneer. The company has renamed the unit Yahoo Search Marketing Solutions.

Yahoo's dual announcements are not merely linked by timing. Broadly, they underscore the company's desire to ingratiate itself in the search community, which is defined by software developers, a thriving advertising economy and Web surfers. At a time when the competition to win consumers is intense, a key line of Yahoo's offense may be to sway the industry influencers first. After all, that's how rival Google won the search crown from Yahoo.

By changing Overture's name, Yahoo will try to strengthen its own brand among marketers. With Yahoo's search APIs, the company will attempt to foster a community that can, in turn, create interesting new applications that promote Yahoo search--for instance, a graphical aid for visual search results.

"Search is not just a service; it's becoming a piece of the infrastructure of the Internet, its file system," Eckart Walther, director of product management for Yahoo Search, said in an interview. "We're making it much easier for third parties to develop value-added services for search."

Yahoo rival Google introduced Web search APIs nearly three years ago. Like Yahoo's, the tool let noncommercial software developers query its Web document database directly from their own computer programs and use that data for their own application. While some developers built with the APIs, not much has emerged from it of late.

As part of its developer network, Yahoo will fold in Overture APIs, which it introduced two years ago. The Overture APIs allow marketers to create a program, for example, that can illustrate how well their keyword-search ad campaigns are performing.

Yahoo's APIs also will include developer access to the company's spelling technology so that third parties can check words against Yahoo's vast database on colloquial lingo such as "bling bling," according to Eckart.

 

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