Yahoo Talks Personalized Search

    August 3, 2004

During the Personalizing Search session at today’s Search Engine Strategies San Jose, Yahoo’s Jan Pedersen got personal. Personalized search, that is.

Personalization, Jan said, is a combination of customization, which includes explicit preferences and an implied storage for every user, and contextualization, where an application knows about a task and offers a task-specific meaning or infers from user behavior what the user is trying to do.

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While he wouldn’t reveal any specific product details, he did drop a few hints of what we can expect from Yahoo! In the future. “Yahoo’s actively working on particular aspects of personalization in search,” he said.

Some possible search features include:

– Customization, which includes stored results and stated interests. The stated interests could be used to reduce ambiguity in searches. For example, if a user searches for “Eagles” the search engine could use these stated interests to determine whether the user was searching for “Eagles” in relation to the birds or in relation to “rock music.”

– Advertising. Ads could become more targeted, while the market could become more complex and more complicated.

“Right now, search is one size fits all,” Jan pointed out. Personalization, when done well, will improve access and relevance, he said.

One important barrier to entry, however, is that personalization requires user effort to be successful. “That’s the key to personalization,” Jan said. Users will have to put forth an effort in order to benefit from personalization. “There are many techniques that allow instant gratification,” Jan said, “but we won’t go into product details.”

Brittany Thompson is an administrator for and contributes to the Insider Reports with her regular articles and interviews.