Shashi Seth Discusses the Future of Search

Today I have the privilege of posting an interview with Shashi Seth, the Senior VP of Search Products for Yahoo! It was a fun interview for me, because the very first interview I ever did was with Shashi back on October 24, 2006. He was at Google at the time, and they had just launched their Custom Search Engines product line.

The key point that emerges from the interview is that Yahoo! views itself as continuing to invest heavily in search. They view the 10 blue links part of search as a commodity, and Yahoo plans to experiment with many types of user experiences to get people who use their other web properties more engaged in search. Shashi refers to this as improving the process of discovery. He argues that if a user finds what they are looking for without ever going to a search box, that’s a good thing.

We touched briefly on the topic of how search is measured. Interestingly, after I interviewed Shashi, Danny Sullivan posted a rant about things being done by Yahoo! that end up manipulating the comScore search market share figures. Shashi and I did discuss the topic (but not Danny’s post since it was not out at the time) of how search volume is counted. He argues that search volume tracking should be more robust than it is today. If someone gets a search query result embedded in content without ever touching a search box, and then they engage with it, is that a search?

For that matter, is the total number of queries the best way to measure a search engine? What about user engagement metrics, such as number of searches it takes a user to find what they want, or the time the user spends engaged with search result content. These ideas, while conceptually interesting, remain hard to measure.

Overall, it was a great look at how Yahoo! views the evolution of search.

Comments

  1. Nice interview. And I agree with you that Yahoo keeps that positive view on how they are planning to evolve. :)

  2. it is still hard to tell the future of the search engine, there is one thing for sure, more and more people rely on search to find the info they want, not only in search engines, but also at online communities like facebook, twitters…

  3. Jimi Chan says:

    The important thing would be not having the Yahoo! search engine automatically sending me to a stroller from Toys R Us, rather than to moving my car through Auto Shipping Network. Two different ballparks, but very similar, even in needs.

  4. Tim White says:

    Mr. Chan is right, but now we count on keywords… very important…
    Also PDAs and iPads, and the new tech will eventually start registering and remembering all your transport and shipping needs and routine (for this specific case)… The search engines should be more personalized like a Pandora genome, and your searches can be as narrow to your activities as possible… By then, it will now determine if its a car transport or a stroller :)

  5. I’m not sure that a search query embedded in content is a search, this would seem like more of a direct link to what you are looking for, but maybe I’m not understanding your meaning of embedded here.

  6. Very nice interview. I liked that point of argument where it is told that not only the number of search query matters but also the number of searches to get the required information. Yahoo does have a positive attitude towards how search engines will be evolved.

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