Yahoo Rejiggers BOSS Revenue Model

When Yahoo pulled the lid off its search engine in July, developers were invited to tap the Build Your Own Search Service (BOSS) API for free. That’s about to change.

In the next couple months, Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) plans to roll out a fee-based model for accessing the BOSS API. Under the new model, developers and site owners will pay a small fee for each 1,000 queries that tap into the technology underlying Yahoo’s search engine, a pricing structure that mirrors the cost-per-thousand (CPM) model commonly used in online advertising.

The usage-based fee structure will replace the advertising model Yahoo has attached to BOSS since its roll-out. As BOSS was originally conceived, developers were offered unlimited access to Yahoo’s search platform for their own sites, with one of the few requirements being that they place ads from Yahoo’s network next to the search queries on their sites. Effective immediately, developers using BOSS can tap into the ad repositories of Google, Microsoft or any other network on the Web. But they’ll have to pay for the service once the fee structure takes effect, likely late in the second quarter.

“It’s effectively the introduction of a new business for Yahoo,” said Bill Michels
Yahoo’s senior director of open search.

BOSS is one of Yahoo’s most prominent overtures to the developer community, a cornerstone of the embattled Web pioneer’s turnaround strategy. Yahoo pitches BOSS as a catalyst for innovation in the search industry, where developers are invited to build applications on top of Yahoo’s infrastructure.

“Our philosophy is we want it to be as open as possible,” Michels told

Using BOSS, developers can tailor searches on their own sites to query Yahoo’s Web-wide index of sites, with results ordered using according to Yahoo’s ranking algorithms.

A tiered pricing structure

Instead of a static CPM model, Yahoo is rolling out a tiered pricing structure based on how deeply the developer wants to delve into Yahoo’s index. If a developer sets the parameters of a BOSS inquiry to only retrieve 10 results from Yahoo’s search engine per query, that will entail a lower fee than if the API were set to retrieve 100 results per query.

With the new fee structure, Yahoo is bringing its BOSS API more in line with existing cloud-based products, such as Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) Web Services business.

“Our thinking is it’s really along the lines of traditional Web services products,” Michels said. “BOSS is basically an infrastructure for building products that rely on a very large search index.”

Along with the new pricing structure, Yahoo is raising the maximum number of search results that the BOSS API can retrieve from 50 results to 1,000.

The company is also offering a service level agreement to provide developers a guarantee that they can build large-scale applications on the BOSS API.

Yahoo is rolling out a handful of other features today to improve its BOSS API.

Beginning today, BOSS searches will be able to tap into the structured data that developers append to search results using Yahoo’s SearchMonkey program. SearchMonkey, introduced in May, augments traditional search results with information designed to enhance the appearance of a listing on a results page. A restaurant for instance, could submit a link to its menu or reviews to be displayed along with its listing.

Yahoo also adds abstracts to its search results to describe the information on the site. With today’s update, the BOSS API will now display abstracts of up to 300 characters. Until today, the character limit had been set at 170.

Finally, Yahoo is introducing a site navigation feature to BOSS, where queries through the API will be able to tap into deep-level indexing information, such as inbound links and the site map.

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