Yahoo And The Quest For Mobile Search Supremacy

    July 8, 2005

It appears as if the mobile communications sector is the next frontier for the search engine industry. As more and more users discover the abilities many of these newer mobile phones have, mobile Internet use, and therefore mobile search use, will continue to increase.

Yahoo And The Quest For Mobile Search Supremacy
Yahoo Eyes Mobile Search Frontier

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, Yahoo launched their SMS-based mobile search service. Many feel this is the next frontier for the search industry. Do you share the same thoughts? Discuss your opinions about the mobile search industry and how it can or cannot grow at WebProWorld.

With that in mind, Yahoo has announced they will be launching an SMS-based search service, which can be accessed by text messaging a query to the number 92466, which spells Yahoo on the phone dial. Yahoo’s SMS service is similar to the other text-based mobile searches available, something they admit on the Yahoo Search blog. On the other hand, Yahoo also increases the capability of their SMS service by extending the reach of the WAP-based mobile Internet.

When users query Yahoo’s SMS mobile search, Yahoo returns (in the form of a text message) “answers” to the query. However, they also include a hyperlink that will navigate the user to a WAP-based web page, something Google’s SMS service does not do. In order to view these linked pages, the user’s mobile unit must be WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) capable.

Not only is Yahoo’s Mobile Search returning links intended for WAP browsing, they are also allowing WAP-powered mobile phones to access the site, an option that previously only available to HTML browser-equipped mobile units.

Because the functionality of the Yahoo’s new mobile search service has been covered quite comprehensively, this article is not going to delve into all of the features associated with the service. If you would like to learn more about the different options of Yahoo’s SMS service, please read Gary Price’s excellent write-up, or visit the Yahoo Mobile Search shortcut page. Instead, we are going to look at the mobile computing frontier and Yahoo’s opportunity that may provide them with a firm grip on this growing industry.

On Om Malik’s blog, he points out that the various mobile search providers are positioning themselves to be the mobile search engine of choice, a designation that would, in all likelihood, net a large amount of the estimated 2 billion mobile phone users. Apparently, Ask Jeeves and AOL are also gearing up mobile search services in an effort to capture some of this territory while it remains on or near the ground floor. And with Microsoft’s further embrace of the mobile industry, it should only be a matter of time before MSN Search introduces their version of a mobile search service.

Like Malik says, this growing interest in the mobile search industry is a strong indication that wireless communication will be the computing industry’s frontier to tame in the 21st century.

However, some question the “attractiveness” of a text-based search service because of the lack of graphics and such. Russell Beattie addresses this concern with his blog entry about Yahoo’s new service. Russell feels Yahoo’s approach of trying to lead people to use their WAP capabilities by including links with the query results is a good strategy for SMS-based mobile search services.

Beattie also feels this method is a good way to get people to use their WAP services and to help move mobile computing and communication beyond mere text messaging. When people begin their migration towards a more multi-media approach to the mobile web, it will also increase the ability to monetize such services by including image-based ads and other related multimedia-style offerings.

Concerning this embrace of mobile computing and search, Om feels Yahoo is well equipped to do quite well in this arena. When you consider the skill with which the company has embraced the personalization and entertainment content (a growing aspect of wireless communications), it’s easy to see the basis for Malik’s thinking. Add to that Yahoo’s success in developing and nurturing a large online community, it appears as if they are in a position to do quite well with settling the mobile frontier.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.