Yahoo is enhancing its service for building custom search engines with access to structured data, and is also introducing fees for using BOSS (Build your Own Search Service) in order to support its plan to offer developers SLAs (service-level agreements) and increased daily query limits.
Developers will use the BOSS API to access SearchMonkey, which can make search results more useful and attractive using structured data, Yahoo said Wednesday.
"We're exposing the structured data in SearchMonkey to all BOSS developers," said Bill Michels, senior director of Yahoo's Open Search Platform.
Once Yahoo introduces BOSS fees towards mid-2009, it will also increase the number of search results an engine can obtain via a single API call to 1,000 from 50. The fees vary depending on the type and quantity of search result involved. Yahoo will also offer SLAs to promote the creation of more sophisticated BOSS search engines.
Yahoo is also changing its terms of service to make it easier for developers to monetize search services. Previously, Yahoo didn't allow developers to generate revenue from BOSS, but now it will let them do so via Yahoo and non-Yahoo platforms, such as ad networks and other programs.
BOSS and SearchMonkey are among recent initiatives Yahoo has rolled out, as it attempts to recover the ground it has lost to Google in the search engine market in recent years. By encouraging external developers to build applications and Web services using Yahoo's search infrastructure, the company hopes to make its search products more popular and more profitable.
Still, it remains to be seen how much of an effect these and other initiatives will have on search engine market share, since Google's domination is daunting. On Wednesday, Nielsen Online reported that Google handled almost 63 percent of all search queries in the United States in January, while Yahoo came in a distant second with slightly more than 16 percent. Google also had a significantly higher search query growth compared with January 2008: 40.8 percent to Yahoo's 8.7 percent growth.
"The important thing for Yahoo is that they're maturing the contours of their BOSS offering, both in terms of the content they can provide to the partners and participants in that program, and also in terms of the business model though which they're going to offer this," said Hadley Reynolds, an IDC analyst.
The bottom-line goal of BOSS is to help individual site owners and Yahoo partners provide more attractive search experiences for their site visitors, which would in turn yield increased usage of Yahoo's search services, he said.
"Presumably, if Yahoo succeeds dramatically with BOSS, it would raise Yahoo's overall traffic and share of search queries," Reynolds added.
This article was updated on Feb. 11, 2009.