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.