Google may get three times more search traffic than Yahoo, but, SearchWiki aside, most of the innovation seems to be coming from Yahoo and Microsoft’s Live Search as they strive to gain a larger slice of the search market share.
Last year Yahoo introduced Search Assist, an advanced autocomplete feature that recommends related searches as you type your query into the search box. Autocomplete isn’t a new concept - Google has offered it for years through Firefox and its browser toolbar (and recently integrated it into its homepage). But Yahoo takes it a step further, going beyond just guessing what word you’re typing by suggesting possible related searches.
Today the site is introducing thumbnail previews for its image searches, allowing users to see how they should modify their queries to get the set of images they’re looking for. For example, typing “Obama” presents suggested searches for “Obama family”, “Barack Obama”, and “Michelle Obama”, each accompanied by a thumbnail indicative of what the query will yield. After trying a few searches of my own it’s easy to see how this could come in handy, especially when it comes to searching for queries with multiple, very different meanings (like “Sierra Nevada”, the beer or the mountain range). That said, the feature is a little quirky - oftentimes I had to refresh the page if I wanted any suggestions to appear.
Meanwhile, earlier this week Microsoft’s Live Search introduced the ability to use an image itself to search for similar images.
The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit entity behind the immensely popular Wikipedia, just announced a new project that is meant to make it a lot easier for inexperienced authors to contribute articles and edits to the project. To do this, the Wikimedia Foundation just received a $890,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation. The project will focus on making the user interface for editing and writing Wikipedia articles easier to use for less tech-savvy contributors.
While there are already numerous browser extensions that try make editing Wikipedia articles easier, the default interface and markup language of the Wikipedia can be quite intimidating for first time users.
Helping First-Time Authors
As Sue Gardner, the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, points out in the announcement, most of the current Wikipedia authors have a "moderate-to-high level of technical understanding." This, however, excludes a large number of potential contributors who aren't very tech savvy, but would like to participate in the project.
The Wikimedia Foundation will use this grant to create a team of developers and user interface designers that will work on reducing barriers of entry for first-time authors. Specifically, the team will look at hiding the more complex elements of the user interface from users who don't need to deal with them.
To us, this seems like a worthwhile project. Anybody who has looked at the markup language for the Wikipedia knows that is anything but intuitive and that there is quite a learning curve involved before one can start to contribute anything more than simple edits. Reducing these barriers of entry will allow a whole new group of users to contribute their knowledge to the project.
Using images to find other images
With features like continuous scroll and an index that encompasses millions of websites, a single image search query is often all you need to find what you are looking for. But sometimes those initial results only give you a hint of what’s available and you need to refine your search to uncover the images you want. With Live Search, you can now use images, rather than additional keyword queries, to refine a search and discover more content.
For example, if you searched for images of boxing icon Muhammad Ali, you would get initial results that include everything from portraits to action shots of both a young and old Ali:
But say that you’d like to see more images of Ali’s famous defeat of Sonny Liston. When you hover over that photo in the results, you’ll see an option to Show Similar Images:
If you click on Show Similar Images, you'll get a new set of results focused solely on the iconic image from 1964 in which Ali towers over an unconscious Liston, after a quick right cross to the jaw.
Now, a question for sports history buffs: are the above images from Ali’s first fight with Liston in Miami, Fla., or their second battle in Lewiston, Maine? To find out, try Live Image Search.
Henry Hall, Senior Product Manager and Jason Xia, Senior Software Development Engineer