August 21, 2003 3:34 PM PDT

Yahoo puts Inktomi to the test

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Yahoo is expanding tests of search technology from its recent Inktomi acquisition in preparation for a global launch, company representatives said Thursday.

Inktomi trials are under way in Australia, Brazil and the United States. Yahoo is only testing Inktomi for its News Search in the United States. The tests make up roughly 2 percent of the search volume in those areas, spokeswoman Diana Lee said.

Lee declined to comment on Yahoo's future relationship with Google, which currently powers the portal's algorithmic Web searches. The two companies have not disclosed the exact length of the partnership, but one financial analyst said that the deal is flexible and can be terminated at any time.

Jeff Weiner, Yahoo's senior vice president of search, said the company has a timeline for implementing Inktomi technology across its global network and that Yahoo is pleased with its progress so far. He did not specify the company's timeline.

"We have every intention of deploying Inktomi...globally," Weiner said during a morning keynote speech at the Search Engine Strategies conference here.

Yahoo is testing algorithmic search technology from Inktomi at a time when it's about to inherit two other Web search products--AltaVista and Fast Search & Transfer--through its $1.7 billion acquisition of Overture Services. The deal is expected to close this fall. At that time, Yahoo will evaluate the worthiness of AltaVista and Fast's search technology, said Jim Barnett, former CEO of AltaVista and head of Web search for Overture.

Overture bought AltaVista and Fast's Web search earlier this year, and the two companies are integrating their technologies to form Overture Search. The platform allows marketers to pay for inclusion in the index--what's known as "paid inclusion."

In Australia, Inktomi is powering a fraction of search results that are normally served by Google. Earlier this week, Yahoo Australia search producer Peter Crowe said the company had started testing Inktomi, among other regional sites, to evaluate it alongside Google. Crowe said that if Inktomi could produce results relevant to each region's market, then the company would not hesitate to make the switch.

In Brazil, Yahoo has used in-house search technology based on software it acquired in that country, Lee said.

Weiner outlined Yahoo's other search innovations, including features to personalize and customize the search experience. That includes asking Web surfers for personal information to tailor their findings. The company also expects to widely introduce its new product search, which lets people compare prices and features on goods from multiple sellers and buy them on Yahoo.

 

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