The mobile web version of Yahoo’s oneSearch (us.m.yahoo.com/p/search) has launched. In addition to that address which takes you to a dedicated oneSearch page, there is a oneSearch box at the top of Yahoo’s US mobile home page at us.m.yahoo.com
Yahoo makes some pretty impressive claims regarding oneSearch. According to Yahoo;
“Finally, mobile search that really works! Introducing Yahoo! oneSearch, an amazingly better search experience that redefines search for the phone. It’s designed to give you instant answers – exactly what you need when you’re on the go. Yahoo! oneSearch understands the type of search you’re doing and optimizes the results accordingly—so you get the answers you need instantly with just one click, right there on the page. oneSearch includes more actual content in your initial results than any other search—all grouped by subject matter and relevance, so there’s no sea of links to wade through like with a PC search. It’s easy to read, scroll through, or drill down further if you want more details.
And, oneSearch gives you results based on where you are. Searching for a movie title will give you local theaters and show times. Type in a city name and oneSearch you will get the latest weather, traffic reports, local news and more.”
I thought that sounded pretty good, so I put oneSearch through its paces.
- First I tried a oneSearch for sushi, the first set of three results were from local search, next a section of Flickr photos, then web results about sushi followed by mobile web results and news articles involving sushi.
- A search for “subprime lending” changed the order to web, mobile web, images, news articles and local.
- A “Wisconsin Badgers” search put the score of the University of Wisconsin basketball team’s last game first, followed by news, images, local, web and mobile web results.
- Entering a Zip Code into oneSearch returns links to “City Guide” and “Today in the City” followed by a weather section with current temperature and a three day forecast expressed by icon images of rain, sunshine, etc. Next up are local events, photos, web and mobile web results. (Update 22-Mar-2006) Actually this works much better if you enter a city name like “Los Angeles” rather than a Zip Code. When I used “San Francisco” instead of “94013”, in addition to events and weather, oneSearch also returned local news, photos and traffic alerts.
The concept of oneSerarch mostly lives up to it’s hype. The idea of puting a variety of results and of including actual content on the first page returned from a search is a good approach for mobile and is likely to become the standard search design used on mobile sites within a year or two. The idea isn’t totally new though, Microsoft’s mobile Live Search works similarly. Live gives you links from a variety of search categories; Web, Local, News and the Spaces blog search. But Yahoo goes beyond links to actually include content like scores and weather forecasts. If your looking for a more conventional search experience, each category in oneSearch lets you drill down into a particular type of search with links to “More Mobile Web”, “More Flickr Photos”, “More businesses”, etc.
I also love the fact that Yahoo includes Flickr photos in the results. Classic Yahoo Mobile Image search returns web images which still appear occasionally in oneSearch instead of Flickr pics. Yahoo seems to be saying that the user generated content of Flickr is of better quality than images found crawling the web as a whole. The user generated theme also appears in local results in the form of user reviews of most restaurants and local businesses.
While I like the oneSearch concept, I’m a little put off by Yahoo’s execution in several areas.
- oneSearch emphasizes local search which I think is very important for mobile but this spotlights a glaring deficiency in Yahoo’s local search product. Search can not be localized to a point other than a city or town center! If I enter an address or zip code in say the Southwest corner of San Francisco my results are centered around downtown which is clear across town in the Northeast corner of the city. Not useful for finding the nearest Starbucks, hardware store or ATM. Google, Go2 and MSN’s local search can all geo-locate a street address and give results that are truly nearby. I also miss the useful small maps in classic Yahoo local search (m.yahoo.com/p/search) which are missing from oneSearch.
- Both the “Today in the City” and “Local Events” results that appear when you search for a Zip Code or City name do not seem to be working correctly. They return event listings from all over the US rather than filtered by location. For example “San Francisco Events” lists two results, one at a museum in Kansas, the other in Indiana both around 2000 miles away! (Update 22-Mar-2007) I discovered that the local events listings will work properly if you don’t enter a Zip Code. So if I search for “San Francisco”, I get San Francisco events. But if I search for “94103” which a San Francisco Zip Code, or even “San Francisco, CA 94013”, I’ll get a result that says San Francisco Events, but the events will be from Peoria or LA or somewhere else far away. Weird and bad too because it’s so much easier to enter 94013 on a phone keypad than “San Francisco”
- oneSearch supports wml-only handsets. I appreciate the effort, there are still a lot of wml-only handsets out there particularly in the developing world. Some of current Nextel and Cingular models are wml-only too. Unfortunately, I get compile errors or “page too large” errors on about half the wml searches I tried. Wml browsers are notoriously picky about invalid markup and generally have low maximum page sizes. All versions of the Openwave browser including the latest V7 and also the wml-only browser that Sony-Ericcson uses in entry-level models are limited to 3000 bytes of compiled wml (about 3800 bytes of raw markup) when loading wml. Early Nokias like the 7110 can only handle 1397 bytes compiled and Netfront 3.1’s limit is 4096 bytes. Many oneSearch wml results exceed 5000 bytes which is much too large.
Currently oneSearch is only officially available in the US, although I think that if you use the full url of us.m.yahoo.com/p/search it may be reachable worldwide – although local search results will only be returned for US locations.
I applaud Yahoo trying an innovative and generally successful approach to mobile search. Google needs to look out, if Yahoo can address their local search failings promptly mobile search will have a new leader.