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Yahoo! takes notes on your searches

Self-scribbling Search Pad

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Yahoo! has equipped its primary search engine with what you might call an automated note taker.

Known as Search Pad, this integrated applet is meant to facilitate web research. As you browse the net, it automatically records visited websites and their thumbnail images on a kind of digital notepad built directly into Yahoo!'s search results page. You can then annotate this info with your own notes, print it out, email it, or - yes - share it by way of so-called social networks.

Search Pad was opened up to a small number of alpha users in February, and today, it was deployed as a beta in sixteen countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

The applet is reminiscent of existing net note taking tools like Clipmarks, Google Notebook, or Jeteye. But unlike these apps, Search Pad is built directly into the search engine itself, and the onus isn't on the user to do the note taking. Initial notes are recorded in the background, by the app itself.

"There's nothing you need to install. No other window you need to switch to, no other document you need to open that's outside the natural environment you search in in the first place," Yahoo! senior director of product experience Tom Chi tells The Reg. "This lets us help the user by rapidly assembling notes and, in a way, making sense of what they're doing."

According to Chi, the tool grew out of some in-home user studies the company performed about a year and a half ago. "We spent a lot of time going to people's homes, trying to understand their search behavior...

"We saw people with post-it notes plastered around their monitors and scribbles on legal pads next to their keyboards and haphazardly-collected Word documents where they had pasted in various snippets of this or that from search work they had done. What this represented to us was a pretty significant opportunity to extend the capabilities of search to go beyond a single query with a list of links to something that spreads meaning across searches or even across search sessions."

If you're in one of those sixteen countries, Search Pad should automatically appear in the top right-hand corner of your results page anytime you search Yahoo! ®

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