Can AOL become a Major Player in Search?

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Thread Title:
News: AOL Puts A Stake In The Ground
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Looks like AOL wanna play with the big boys, actually, looks like AOL want to copy Yahoo with a media model Search strategy. John Battelle has the full details in the threadlink above.

After dropping the walled garden model last autumn AOL have announced their intentions to enter the Search fray fully - they're now playing with the big dogs and by the look of things, present a serious threat to Yahoo's search model as well as to a lesser extent, Googles.

As one might expect, AOL has joined Yahoo in taking what might be called the "media model" of search. The media model takes a person's query and salts the results with all manners of human edited results - mostly from content the service owns, or content that the service access from partners, or content from the web that the service edits together to create what has been called "smart search", "search shortcuts," "programmatic search," and the like.

AOL is taking this to the extreme. It is, after all, a major division of a gigantic content player, and up until now, that content was locked away behind the failing access business model. No longer. AOL Search is taking the media model of search to the maximum - they have 60 full time employees creating edited "snapshots" which respond to what AOL Search chief Gerry Campbell says are 20% of all queries. That's 2.5 million snapshots preloaded, so when you type in a popular query, you get an "answer, not just a list of results." I imagine that number will only continue to grow. Yahoo circa 1995, anyone? This time, however, AOL only has to pre-load queries which prove out to be worth the time - the log files will tell them which ones. As will the economy. "We won't have a smart box for a query like 'birds of the Maldives'" Campbell told me. " But that's why we have Google."

Check out the New Search Interface

Forresters Charlene Li has this powerpoint before and after snapshot - why these muppets cant use a simple jpg is beyond me - but dont it look grand? Don't it look Yahoo!

Dynamic Clustering and Smart Boxes

Sherman has a nice write up on this also, he talks about the dynamic clustering licensed from Vivisimo and something called smart box technology...

Search result pages also offer new features. Perhaps most noticeable is the addition of dynamic clustering using technology licensed from Vivisimo. Clusters are labeled "web matches" and appear on the upper left of search result pages.

AOL is also rolling out what they call "Smartbox" technology. Smartbox offers dynamic query refinements by monitoring your search terms as you type and offering suggestions before you actually click the search button. The technology has been used on AOL's Pinpoint Shopping site since October. It can be a bit disconcerting to use at first, but over time it's a very useful tool for narrowing and focus queries. Importantly, it doesn't interfere with your search if you opt not to use it.

So, as you can see, this is quite a major play from AOL and we would hope to see them succeed - more players in Search is a good thing IMO - What do you think?