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Yahoo!ís New Y!Q Service Improves Conceptual Searching
Posted On February 14, 2005
Boolean’s back and Yahoo!’s got it! Well, sort of. Remember the good old, bad old days when professional intermediary searchers designed sophisticated search strategies? They grouped terms into logical conceptual bunches (connected by OR), cross-linked the bunches to other conceptual bunches (usually with AND), and carefully removed terms that led to false drops (sometimes with the dangerous NOT). Yahoo! Search has introduced similar power features in its new beta-tested Y!Q service. Y!Q combines the ease of post-Boolean search capabilities (relevance ranking, More Like This, automatic taxonomy checks, etc.) with the control that Boolean-style searching offered. It works as a downloadable Y!Q Demobar with the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. To test the new service, go to

Searchers block and highlight text from a Web page and click on the Y!Q icon; the service then finds search results using the terms highlighted. The more language highlighted, the broader the search results. (Sound like an OR to you?) Selecting blocks of text from Web pages allows the Y!Q system to extract related terms automatically. If users want to narrow the search by focusing on specific areas, they just enter terms into the Y!Q search box. (Sound like an AND?) Searchers can also change the text as it appears in the search box history or delete search terms. (Not a NOT, but then NOTs were always dangerous. Full-text pioneer service LexisNexis used to distribute buttons at conferences displaying the word “NOT” with a big red slash through it.) Each result in a Y!Q search carries a “More Like This” link, which tells Y!Q to combine original search context with terms associated with the search result. Again, searchers can then edit the key terms using the Context Selection Box.

To see the system at full power, check out its application in Yahoo! News. Searchers who see an interesting news story can click on the “Y!Q Search Related Info” link at the bottom of the news stories. While still in the original Yahoo! News window in the “Related Search Results” area, searchers can view related news and Web search results without leaving the headlines page. Once searchers have found a story of interest, they just click on the “All Related Results” link at the bottom to see the full Y!Q search results page. The context selection box allows further honing of search terms throughout the process.

Web site owners can add Y!Q to their sites by embedding Y!Q tags into Web pages to provide searches and links to pages on other Web sites, while still keeping users tied to the original Web site. Increasing “stickiness” is an important goal to Web owners, particularly those with advertisers or sponsors providing needed revenue. Such use of Y!Q lets Web site owners control the topics specified with the tags as well as overlay results directly onto their own pages. Webmasters interested in the Y!Q Tag service must agree to the general Yahoo! Terms of Service as well as specific terms and conditions for the use of Y!Q Tags. (For example, “The Y!Q Tag must appear by itself, with a minimum spacing of 25 pixels between each side of the Logo and other graphic or textual elements on your web page.”) The Y!Q Tag installation instruction page explains further details (

Yahoo! is not alone in using such technology. The hot new service also lets searchers use Web-page text to create searches.

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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