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Yahoo! promises to abduct 'people' search from Google

Interface, not Bing, is king

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Yahoo! may have agreed to substitute its search for Microsoft's Bing, but the company's not throwing in the towel - just snapping it at another end of search-beast Google.

"The back-end of search is a megawatt war, and that is what we are getting out of," senior vice president of Yahoo!'s labs and search strategy Prabhakar Raghaven told AFP.

"We believe the battle has moved beyond the back end," he said, adding "we want to fight the battle on the other end."

That is, if they're allowed to join forces with Microsoft in their battle at all. One veteran antitrust lawyer told Computerworld on Monday that he thinks the Microhoo! deal is a non-starter.

"I obviously can't predict with certainty how the [US Department of Justice] will react to it, but I think there's a very good chance it will force [Microsoft and Yahoo!] to modify the deal at the very least if they do not block it outright," said Matthew Cantor of New York's Constantine Cannon, which specializes in antitrust litigation.

"Even though it's a partnership, it will be evaluated like a merger," said Cantor, "because Yahoo! ceases to be a competitor in search. Yahoo! is going to use Bing technology for their sites. I think there's no question the DOJ will come to the conclusion that the deal is anticompetitive."

That opinion doesn't faze Yahoo! Vice president of search products and design Larry Cornett, who fed AFP the same line that every search firm since AltaVista, alltheweb, Lycos, and Excite has used to describe its offering.

"This design is going to transform the way you use the Web," trumpeted Cornett, saying that a new and improved Yahoo! interface - to be rolled out even before Yahoo!'s Bingification - will "make it easier and faster for you to find the things that matter most to you."

Pardon us if we've heard that before. But Cornett is adamant. "Searching for people has been Google's domain; we are going to take that away from them," he said. "When we launch this, you are going to come to Yahoo! to search for people."

When you search for someone on the new-and-improved Yahoo!, according to Cantor, you'll be presented with links to their social-networking pages on such sites as Facebook and Twitter. Results will also be guided by your previous searches, and will include other distractions goodies on the search-results page as YouTube videos and Yelp reviews.

What Cornett didn't say is why someone would prefer a filtered web search to the simplicity that's Google. If not presented with tidy elegance, bells and whistles can more often than not generate clangorous shrillness.

The Reg, of course, will wait to pass judgement on the new Yahoo! until we have a chance to put it through its transformative paces.

And then we'll wait with bated breath to find out how much more web-transmogrifying Yahoo! will become after it performs a Vulcan mind meld with Bing.

That is, if Binghoo! ever sees the light of day in the first place. ®

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