Yahoo Unveils Audio Search Facility

Yahoo Unveils Audio Search FacilityYahoo is testing a new Audio search facility to let users find audio files on the Web.

The free service, available online at Yahoo Search, claims to have indexed more than 50 million audio files including music downloads, albums, spoken word newscasts, speeches, interviews and, notably, podcasts.

Additionally, the search engine has indexed other audio related information including music videos, album reviews, artist images and artists’ Websites.

Although other internet search engines have the capability to find audio files, Yahoo claims that theirs is the dog’s bollo’s because the company has received permission to index downloadable songs offered by almost all of the biggest mainstream and independent providers.

These include iTunes, Napster, eMusic, GarageBand.com, Napster and RealNetworks’ Rhapsody, letting users click to buy once they’ve found the tunes they’re looking for.

Yahoo Unveils Audio Search FacilityAlthough the service is still in beta we were impressed with its speedy and simple interface: typing in the name of one of my (sadly) obscure old punk songs immediately brought up the album details, a list of download locations and links to reviews and other released albums.

For many of the songs, you can preview tunes before buying, with a ‘Preferred Audio Service’ option letting users select their, err, preferred music service from a comprehensive list.

Impressive!

This latest offering from Yahoo reflects the growing trend by search engine companies to expand their services into multimedia as well as text-based searching.

With all of the major players already offering some kind of video search facility, the race is on to provide a true, one-stop search engine capable of indexing everything on the Web.

Yahoo Audio Search

Yahoo WAP Mobile Price Check Service Launched

Yahoo! Launches WAP Mobile Price Check ServiceYahoo! UK and Ireland have launched a handy new mobile search service which allows consumers to check the prices of goods via Yahoo! WAP services when they’re out and about.

The service, accessible on all WAP enabled phones at standard browsing rates, serves up instant price and product information from the Yahoo-owned comparison service Kelkoo.

Yahoo! said it will not charge for the service which promises to cover 3 million product offers and more than 5000 UK retailers.

Mobile users accessing the WAP site at http://wap.yahoo.co.uk, can type in their desired product into the search box and click on the “Products” button.

Yahoo! Launches WAP Mobile Price Check ServiceA result screen then displays images, pricing and product information, providing users with the low down about the cheapest prices around.

Dorothea Arndt, director of search and distribution at Kelkoo enthused: “Mobile price comparison is a major step towards aligning the on and offline shopping experience and brings us significantly closer to achieving our mission of making shopping simple for everyone.”

It all sounds great, but we found the service a little flaky.

At the first two attempts, we got a screen of results serving up nothing more than the price and the name of the shop with no location, address, phone number or Weblink. A fat lot of good, then.

Yahoo! Launches WAP Mobile Price Check ServiceHowever, if you persevere and click through to the next results page, a ‘compare’ link should magically appear under some products and this will let you access its full details.

Once the service is fully ironed out, shopkeepers around the UK can prepare to brace themselves for a stream of tech-savvy bargain hunters waving their WAP phones around the counter and demanding price matching.

Yahoo!

Yahoo Buys DialPad VoIP Phone Service

Yahoo Buys DialPad VoIP Phone ServiceYahoo has whipped out its wallet and snapped up DialPad Communications, a company making VoIP software allowing users to make cut-price calls over the Internet.

Yahoo will use DialPad to expand its product array in the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) sector.

Based in California, DialPad is a six year-old company with around 40 employees competing in the hot potato sector of rerouting calls from computers to servers to telephones.

Yahoo Buys DialPad VoIP Phone ServiceThe company offers a selection of VoIP subscription plans to users – including prepaid VoIP calling cards – with charges ranging from as little as 1.7 cents per minute for calls to more than 200 countries.

DialPad has been offering calling plans for about two years and boasts more than 14 million users.

Although the specifics of the deal are yet to be released, Yahoo spokeswoman Joanna Stevens said that the new products integrating the DialPad technology could be debuting within a month. Pricing has yet to be announced.

Yahoo Buys DialPad VoIP Phone ServiceIn its announcement, Dialpad served up a bit more information about the deal: “Yahoo plans on leveraging Dialpad’s PSTN calling capabilities to add to Yahoo Messenger’s recently enhanced PC-to-PC voice calling offering. These products are very complementary and by combining our strengths, we are better positioned to take advantage of the fast growing IP telephony market and build a range of exciting new services.”

The acquisition comes hot on the heels of Yahoo introducing a test version of its instant messaging software which bundled an Internet telephony component that allowing users to make free computer-to-computer calls.

With rumours recently circulating the Web about Yahoo scooping up Skype, it now seems that Yahoo is looking to take on the VoIP upstart head on. Fight! Fight!

DialPad
Yahoo

Yahoo Music Unlimited Launched: Price Shock

Yahoo Unveils Online Music StoreYahoo has slapped a king-sized gauntlet on the floor as it announced plans to roll out an aggressively-priced online music service.

The new service, unsurprisingly dubbed Yahoo Music Unlimited, will give downloaders unlimited access to over a million music tracks for US$6.99 (~£3.70 ~€5.42) a month, or, alternatively, for US$60 (~£31.86 ~€36.58) a year.

The service, which also lets users transfer the songs to compatible portable music players, massively undercuts its rival’s services.

RealNetworks, for example, charge a comparatively hefty US$179 (~£95 ~€139) a year for a near-identical service while Napster charging US$14.95 (~£7.95 ~€11.60) a month for a portable music subscription service and US$9.95 (~£5.25 ~€7.72) a month without the portability option.

“We look at subscriptions as a way to get people to pay as little something for digital music as opposed to ripping their own CDs or stealing music.” Yahoo Music General Manager David Goldberg said.

Yahoo hopes that the low, low, low price is designed to get users hip to the subscription music model, which allows consumers to play downloaded music and “streamed” tracks whenever they want — as long as they keep shelling out for the privilege.

Just like Napster’s similar service – which offers a similarly vast online music library – the second a customer’s cash flow stops, their opulent oasis of a record collection will rapidly turns into a tune-free desert.

Yahoo’s price pruning bonanza looks set to spur further expansion of the online music business, which despite huge growth still only accounts for about 2% or less of total music sales, according to analyst estimates.

Yahoo Unveils Online Music StoreYahoo’s hugely popular Website – visited by 100 million US users every month – should give their music service a big head start, with the company being able to let rip with the kind of massive marketing muscle that few online music rivals can match.

“It’s a hugely aggressive move, a shot in the arm to the subscription notion,” says David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Research, predicting subscription revenue will be larger than downloads within a few years, from roughly equal shares today.

iTunes, the current online music market leader, provides a different service, preferring to charge users on a song or album download basis, with Apple previously being critical of the subscription model.

Some suspect that they may be pressured into adopting a similar offering once Yahoo’s PR machine rolls into action.

Although it’s generally accepted that subscription services are more lucrative than charging per download, some analysts are wondering whether Yahoo will actually be able to make any dosh at the US$60 (~£31 ~€46) annual subscription level.

Yahoo’s David Goldberg has expressed confidence that the service will be profitable, although conceded that the company could eventually raise its fees. He’s been a bit sketchy with the small-print details too, but says Yahoo will pay music labels royalties linked to its revenue and subscriber numbers for the service.

Yahoo Unveils Online Music StoreYahoo’s subscription service will work with selected portable MP3 players that use Microsoft’s digital-music format – there’s currently around compatible 10 devices available, including Dell’s DJ player and Creative Technology’s Zen Micro.

Owners of compatible devices will have to install new software on them to be able to use the service, with newer models offering built-in compatibility.

Apple may be slightly perturbed to learn that the Yahoo’s service will not work with their iPod, despite it being the biggest selling digital music player on the planet and probably elsewhere.

Yahoo’s testosterone-charged move reflects their determination to grab a Brobdingnagian chunk of the online music pie, with the company splashing out US$160 million (~£85m ~€124m) last year to acquire MusicMatch, a company already offering a song/album download deal with a non-portable subscription service.

MusicMatch’s subscription charges have now come down to match the new service with Yahoo expected to merge the two services shortly.

Yahoo Unveils Online Music StoreThe new service will include free software a la Apple’s iTunes jukebox, with the bonus of letting subscribers rummage around in their friends computers for songs, and then listen to their tracks if the music is part of Yahoo’s catalogue.

To further entice subscribers, Yahoo is looking to incorporate the social aspects of listening to and discovering music through tie-ins with other Yahoo services -like gamers on Yahoo’s site being able to listen to the same music as friends they are playing with.

Yahoo Music users not ‘down’ with this subscription thang will still be able to buy tracks under the traditional download model, with fees of 79 cents (~£0.42 ~€0.62) per song for Music Unlimited subscribers and 99 cents (~£0.53 ~€0.77) for nonsubscribers.

Yahoo
MusicMatch

Yahoo Video Search Leaves Beta, Adds Content

Yahoo Video Search Leaves Beta, Adds ContentYahoo has pulled a fast one on its rivals by unexpectedly taking it’s five month long ‘Beta’ video search service to a full release, and adding some new media partners to provide searchable material.

The service enables Web users to find and view a wide variety of video content including news footage, movie trailers, TV clips and music videos.

The announcement comes just days after Google had proudly paraded new partners for its beta video search service, which lets users search closed captioning content and view still shots of video clips.

Google has also been seeking original material by inviting users to submit their own video to the service.

Yahoo Video Search Leaves Beta, Adds Content Finding video content on Yahoo’s new search facility is easy enough: type in the relevant keywords and you’ll be taken to a results page showing thumbnails of the video files. Clicking on the thumbnail takes you to the hosting page with an option to directly view the video.

Sources for Yahoo’s new search feature have been expanded to include CBS News, Reuters, MTV, VH1.com, IFILM.com, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, as well as an assortment of independent producers and content pulled by spidering the Web for video content.

Yahoo Video Search Leaves Beta, Adds Content In the interests of research, we rummaged around for naughty porn, but couldn’t find anything too racy – until we spotted the ‘turn safe search off’ option. Clicking on this released a veritable cascade of filth that would send Mary Whitehouse’s graveyard residence spinning in turbo mode.

This latest development adds more fuel to the almighty bun fight currently being battled out between Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Ask Jeeves and less well-known names like Blinkx, as companies compete to grab a juicy slice of the lucrative video search advertising business.

These companies clearly understand that in the future of a near infinite number of sources for content, the consumer is going to become very confused and possibly overwhelmed by choice, unless someone, or a service guides then through it. Having identified this, they’re all chasing it.

Yahoo Video Search

Yahoo 360 To Import Content From Non-Yahoo Services

Yahoo 360 To Import Content From Non-Yahoo ServicesYahoo has announced plans to ramp up the feature set of its Yahoo 360 social networking and blogging service, currently in beta.

According to Paul Brody, director of community products at Yahoo, the company intends to let users import content, such as photos and music, from non-Yahoo applications.

“Some of the things that people very much want to do is to share content from other sources outside of Yahoo,” observed Brody, “[Yahoo] 360 right now does a great job of allowing you to share the content you might have already on Yahoo.”

The Yahoo 360 service entered an invite-only limited beta period in late March allowing participating users to publish blogs, share content and post pictures with control over who they shared their content with.

Yahoo 360 To Import Content From Non-Yahoo ServicesThe service currently only allows users to include content from other Yahoo services such as Yahoo Photos and Yahoo Music, but now Yahoo are to offer the inclusion of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds from other sources.

Brody stated that he wanted the Yahoo 360 service to be an “open” product, adding, “If you have content anywhere on the Internet, you should be able to share it with friends and family through Yahoo 360.”

The beta period has given Yahoo some useful feedback about their users’ needs – with the company now working with bloggers to give them greater flexibility in customising their blogs and adding features such “trackback.” Trackbacks create a links between related information on different blogs, further explained in a link below.

Yahoo 360 To Import Content From Non-Yahoo Services“Yahoo 360 should be made available to the public in the next few weeks, by which time the capability to share non-Yahoo content will also be included.” Brody commented.

Localised versions of Yahoo 360 will be launched soon in some countries in Asia and Europe, according to Brody. The Yahoo blog service is already available in some countries like Japan and Korea.

Yahoo’s My Web Upgrades Personal Search Tools
Google Introduces Local Search To UK
Yahoo 360 Service Blends Blogging And Social Networking Tools
TrackBack description from sixapart

Yahoo’s My Web Upgrades Personal Search Tools

Yahoo's My Web Upgrades Personal Search ToolsThe battle between Google and Yahoo continues to heat up, with Yahoo ramping up the feature set of its ‘My Web’ suite of personal search tools.

My Web is a personal search engine that lets users save, recall and share resources with others using a selection of Yahoo tools, such as email and IM (instant messaging).

“Yahoo Search is focused on providing innovative, useful technologies that enable people to find, use, share, and expand knowledge,” boomed Salim Mitha, director, Yahoo Search, UK & Ireland.

“My Web is the next step in our vision of integrating search, personal search and community by providing users an easy way to have their own personal web search experience that incorporates the best of the Web and what matters most to them.”

Yahoo's My Web Upgrades Personal Search ToolsYahoo claim that their service is “better than bookmarks”, with users able to save an exact copy of a page along with the link, so that saved content will always be there when users return to the page.

Users can store thousands of pages, with tools allowing users to organise and search the content and access it from any computer.

Shared pages can be published using RSS (Rich Site Summary) with users given the option of creating public links pages.

My Web users will soon be able to share data with the Yahoo 360 social network, which allows users to share pictures, music and other data.

Yahoo's My Web Upgrades Personal Search ToolsYahoo’s search history tool bears more than a passing similarity to the one released by Google last week and reflects the fierce competition between the two companies.

Yahoo are hoping that these new features will send people flocking to their portal services and thus generate lots and lots of lovely advertising revenue.

UPDATE: Thanks to Steve Rioux for getting in touch, telling us of a very similar service he started almost a year ago called “Smart Note”. You can find it at Klogger.com

Yahoo My Web

Google Introduces Local Search To UK

Google Introduces Local Search To BritainWeb search goliaths Google have delivered a large size nine up the rear end of their fierce rivals Yahoo by being the first to launch a local search service in Britain.

Like its popular US counterpart, Google’s local search service will offer maps and driving directions, and is their first such offering in Europe.

Now in public beta, the service is offered in partnership with the UK commercial telephone directory company Yell, who provide the business phone numbers and addresses.

Users can find local services by simply typing in their query into two boxes, labelled, “what” and “where”.

For example, typing in ‘cameras’ and ‘W1′ will produce a list of camera shops in the London W1 area, complete with addresses, phone numbers, a map flagging up the locations and a clickable link for more info.

Google Introduces Local Search To Britain“It’s the first time we’re bringing local search to a country outside North America,” said Kate Burns, ad sales and operations manager for Google in Britain, declining to give details about launches elsewhere in Europe.

The cooperation with a telephone directories company is unique to Britain, Burns said.

Frustrated Frenchmen and befuddled Belgians were left to mull over their fate with this enigmatic statement: “We take our European audience very seriously, (but) we’ve got nothing to announce this time.”

Local search is the big hot potato for Web search providers, who are salivating at the prospect of a nice new advertising niche opening up.

Google Introduces Local Search To BritainGlobal search advertising revenue is already sending cash tills into overdrive, with US investment bank Piper Jaffray estimating spending to rise to US$7.9 billion (£4.1BN/€6bn) in 2005 from US$5.5 billion (£4.1bn/€4.2bn) in 2004 – with most of the growth coming from international expansion and higher volume.

Google has also unveiled its Google SMS (Short Message Service) in the UK. This service enables users to send queries as text messages from a mobile phone and get information local business, driving directions and dictionary definitions. There’s also a facility to compare online product prices with high street ones.

Phone users will be charged with normal SMS text tariffs for the service.

Google local
Google SMS.

Google Unveils Mobile Local Search

Google Unveils Mobile Local SearchGoogle is making its local-search service available to mobile-toting users, offering maps and driving directions optimised for the wee screen.

The nifty service – currently being publicly tested – lets nomadic users find local restaurants, stores and other businesses using their Web-enabled mobiles/PDAs equipped with suitable XHTML (Extensible HTML)-enabled browsers.

Using the service is simplicity itself, with a simple interface offering two boxes to enter “what” and “where” search terms, a search button and a link to get driving directions.

If you’re gasping for a Budweiser beer in Brooklyn, simply type ‘bar’ in the first box and the area’s zip code in the second and you’ll be presented with a helpful list of ten hostelries, with a ‘next’ button offering more locations.

Each search result offers the name, address and phone number of the bar and the distance from your location (sadly the service is currently only available for US and Canadian services).

As with Google local search results, clicking on the link for a result takes you to a page offering more detail about the business (there’s not much there at the moment, though).

Google Unveils Mobile Local SearchTelephone numbers are displayed as a hyperlink, and if the users’ phone supports the facility, clicking on the link will dial the listed telephone number (unlike some local search services, there is no additional charge for this).

At the top of the page, a small map shows the locations of the bars listed, with each marked with a pushpin-like icon. A set of text links below lets you zoom in and pan around the local area.

Basic driving instructions can also be obtained by inputting your start and end addresses.

Naturally, such a genuinely useful service suggests a host of revenue earning possibilities, but Georges Harik, director of product management for Google declined to discuss future plans for sponsored listings, pay-per-call advertisements or other potential enhancements to the local mobile service.

Instead, the cryptic chappie stated that Google “plans to do whatever would be useful” for users of the service.

Google Unveils Mobile Local SearchLocal search services are set to be the big hot potato of 2005, with the Kelsey Group reporting that local search ad spending hit US$162 million (£85m/€125m) in 2004.

The local advertising market is predicted to reach US$5.1 billion in the United States by 2009, with local search advertising accounting for about two-thirds of the spend.

With Google’s arch-rivals, Yahoo, already offering a mobile search service, we can look forward to a glorious bun fight as the search engine giants ramp up the feature sets to woo customers. Bring it on!

Google Mobile
Google Local
Yahoo Local

Google Launches Q&A Service

Google Launches Q&A ServiceGoogle has started dishing out factual answers for some queries at the top of its results page, thus sparing click-weary users the hassle of navigating to other sites to look up the information.

For example, if a user keen to discover more about the greatest country in the world enters the query, “what is the capital of Wales”, Google will serve up the first paragraph from a wikipedia feature on Cardiff, along with a link to the originating page.

Typing in separate requests for the populations of England, Scotland and Ireland produced the correct results at the top of the page although – disgracefully – there was nothing for Wales. Outrageous!

The Q&A also works for celebrities, countries of the world, the planets, the elements, electronics and movies. Peter Norvig, Google’s director of search quality, states that the company will continually work to broaden the scope of topics and to improve its capability to deliver more complex answers.

Only a small percentage of queries currently produce these factual answers, but the service is still its early stages, added Norvig.

Google are a bit late to the party with this one – other search engine providers such as Ask Jeeves, Yahoo and AOL are already offering similar services.

Google Launches Q&A ServiceNorvig went on to explain that Google feeds the service with information from Web sites they considers to be reliable, but it’s yet to establish formal relationships with any of the sites providing the content.

You might think that some of the sites might be a tad miffed to see Google stealing their thunder, but Norvig thinks that they’ll be so chuffed to find themselves at the top of Google’s results list that they’ll want to run naked through the streets, clenching roses between their bum cheeks.

Well, he might have said that. To himself. When he was asleep. Possibly.

Google
Google Blog