Yahoo announced on Tuesday that it had hired a high-level researcher to beef up its social search efforts.
Raghu Ramakrishnan, who has been appointed vice president and research fellow, has an expertise mix that includes data mining and online communities. He will help the company develop its social search services like photo sharing and tagging site Flickr, social bookmarking services del.icio.us and MyWeb and the question-and-answer search engine Yahoo Answers.
As the Sunnyvale, California, company continues its uphill battle against Google, Yahoo executives have said that the emerging field of social search could redefine the search engine market.
Social search sites let users participate in the discovery, categorization and sharing of indexed Web sites, tapping the knowledge of millions of people and in theory providing services that deliver more relevant search results and that are easier to personalize.
These sites are seen by some as the next step in search engine services, an evolution from the search engines that rank sites based on algorithms and that create indexes with automated Web crawlers. For now, Yahoo is struggling in its attempts to challenge Google in the search engine market.
"There is a lot of thinking going on at Yahoo about all of the social search products, and a lot of energy is being poured into them so you'll see some refreshing changes and developments," Ramakrishnan said.
Ramakrishnan co-founded a company called Quiq in the late 1990s that developed technology for creating online communities where users could exchange information and answer each other's questions. This is a very similar concept to the one at the core of Yahoo Answers, where users can post and answer questions. Quiq's clients included the Ask Jeeves search engine -- now Ask.com -- which used Quiq's technology in its AnswerPoint community section. Quiq also built customer-support online communities for Business Objects SA and Sun Microsystems Inc.
Ramakrishnan also co-founded the Data Mining Institute and worked as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery. "You keep social search as intuitive as you can on the surface but you have to work very hard under the hood to make sure that that final experience is as effective as you can make it. That's where data management, data mining and data analysis come into play. They're all bread and butter techniques you need under the hood," he said.
Ramakrishnan, who has a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, came to Yahoo from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he taught computer science.