Yahoo has taken a major step in the evolution of search APIs with today's release of BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service). The BOSS platform lets developers build their own full-blown custom search applications on Yahoo's index of the Internet, the same infrastructure that underlies Yahoo Search.
Yahoo's blog announcement outlines what's in today's release and some of why it's different than earlier search APIs:
- Ability to re-rank and blend results -- BOSS partners can re-rank search results as they see fit and blend Yahoo!'s results with proprietary and other web content in a single search experience
- Total flexibility on presentation -- Freedom to present search results using any user interface paradigm, without Yahoo! branding or attribution requirements
- BOSS Mashup Framework -- We're releasing a Python library and UI templates that allow developers to easily mashup BOSS search results with other public data sources
- Web, news and image search -- At launch, developers will have access to web, news and image search and we'll be adding more verticals soon
- Unlimited queries -- There are no rate limits on the number of queries per day
The RESTful API (our profile) lets developers query up to 50 items at a time with results returned in XML or JSON. Developers can choose to search from the web, news, image or spelling indexes.
Yahoo is highlighting some of their launch partners using BOSS: Me.dium, a search start-up with a unique collaborative browsing product is combining BOSS and real-time surfing data, there's Hakia, the semantic search start-up, Daylife To-Go a hosted publishing platform from Daylife, and Cluuz that uses BOSS to help them offer their semantic cluster graphs, image extraction and tag clouds. In the example below, a custom app uses a "cover flow" model to allow you to flip through search result pages.
Use of the API is free but partners will be required to show Yahoo search ads. Which, given that Yahoo will do a revenue share with developers on these, may prove to be a win-win monetization strategy. Prabhakar Raghavan, chief strategist for Yahoo Search says: "We fully expect it to expand the footprint of Yahoo search advertising on the Web. There is no payment of any kind we expect from partners, but we do say in the terms of service up front that over time we will require them as they build and grow out to use our search advertising."
Internet search APIs have had a somewhat tenous existence to date, with Google's now deprecated SOAP API being the best known example. Search APIs from most vendors have struggled to balance between giving away the farm and finding a suitable business model that works for both provider and developer. Yahoo themselves in the announcement point out how much less restricted this API is than their earlier Search APIs: unlimited queries per day vs 5,000 previously, results can now be re-ordered, no restrictions on how the data is presented, blending of proprietary and Yahoo content allowed, and no attibution required.
Yahoo's move with BOSS, both from a technology and business model perspective, may help spur a whole new generation of innovative search applications and mashups. As Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb notes: "it's very exciting to imagine thousands of new Yahoo! powered niche search engines proliferating. Could Yahoo! plus the respective strengths and communities of all these new players challenge Google? We think they could."
For more good analysis check out Vanessa Fox's coverage at Search Engine Land.