Yahoo Gears Toolbar, Bookmarks For Social Search

Looking to bring social search to the mainstream and answer moves from rival Google , Yahoo  today put new versions of its Toolbar and Bookmarks products into beta testing.

The new Yahoo Toolbar features a bookmarks button to save and access bookmarks from any computer and a “search suggest” function that pairs search queries with relevant saved bookmarks.

The new Yahoo Bookmarks tool wears a new AJAX user-interface and features the ability to organize bookmarks through traditional folders or “tags.”

Users can also now share their bookmarks with friends via e-mail or Yahoo Messenger.

Tomi Poutanen, director of product management for Yahoo social search, told the company hopes the mainstream millions already using older versions of the products will learn to love the new versions’ new tagging and social search features, which will be integrated with Yahoo’s social search site in 2007.

Poutanen said and social search in general is already popular with early adopters, but that testing shows mainstream users do not yet understand tagging, the crucial first step needed to make social search work.

Social search is search that asks people, not automated computers, to index the Internet.

When users find sites that they think might be useful for themselves or others in their network might want to find again, they save the site into the social search engine’s index and tag it with relevant keywords.

Those keywords are often called tags and that process, tagging.

The more a URL is tagged with a certain keyword, the more the social search engine understands that URL to be a relevant result when a user uses that keyword as a search term.

Yahoo desperately needs to make social search work for mainstream users.

Yahoo CEO Terry Semel publicly called social search a differentiator for Yahoo in its competition for search share and advertising revenue with market leader Google.

Enter new versions of Yahoo Toolbar and Yahoo Bookmarks.

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