Could BOSS be the saviour of Yahoo search?

Yahoo recently launched their open source search tools, under the name BOSS ( Build Your Own Search Service ). The published aim of BOSS is to grow the breadth of search offerings using the Yahoo technology. Use of the Yahoo technology is free in return for Yahoo selling ads against the search results. There are plans for Yahoo to start sharing [what little] revenue they achieve from these new search tools.

The actual concept of ‘build your own search’ has been around for some time, with swiki’s [search wiki’s] never really taking off, but this is the first time a really ‘big’ operator has opened its search technology.

The current search tools using BOSS are interesting and innovative. The initial list, published by Yahoo includes:

Cluuz ('clues' if you are slow to get it like I was)- offers a basic search functionality with added connections, showing you the information in tag clouds and also in relative linking, a bit like - offers search + social - taking the search results and then comparing them against the most popular search results from a pool of other users. This technology is interesting and has the potential to become a genuinely useful engine - think Yahoo search results with added results if they ever got round to proper integration.

Daylife:allows you to launch a personalised news portal in minutes.

Hakia: a semantic serach engine, answering questions rather than queries.

So, all of these search tools are quite cool, but none of them are really going to help Yahoo challenge Google's position. Now this is early days, and there are potentially a lot more applications to come using Boss technology but I can see only two ways in which Boss could possibly help Yahoo in the grand scheme.

1. Yahoo helps build a world beating search engine that changes the face of search.

OK, maybe but that would be quite a fantastical leap. We also have to look at Yahoo's poor record of integrating innovative search technologies like Delicious to see how they could easily squander such a solution if it ever were invented.

2. Yahoo helps build a world beating search engine that operates as a standalone with Yahoo creaming the ad revenue from it.

Hmm, no. The problem here is scale. The only people with scale are Google, MSN and Yahoo. We covered Yahoo's inability to integrate in point 1 so the only other way to get scale would be to be aquired by the competition which would somewhat defeat the exercise.

Yahoo may argue that this 'open source' route has been successfully trodden by the likes of Firefox [over 1m downloads in one day] but the growth of firefox was also a result of the unhappiness of IE users. In the search market, there may be pockets of unhappiness at Google, the market leader, but not nearly enough to make a change.

So, will Yahoo Boss be the 'game changer' for Yahoo? Sadly not.

This is my opinion, what do you think?