In the midst of Carl Icahn's quest to oust Jerry Yang and the rest of the struggling search company's board of directors, Yahoo is doing what it can to further its open search strategy. Wednesday Yahoo announced the beginning of its BOSS program, or Build your Own Search Service.
To "foster innovation," Yahoo says, it is opening its search index to programmers through APIs. The company is hoping opening its secrets will give new entrants into the space a chance to actually compete with the likes of Yahoo and Google. Using the API will allow BOSS program participants to do things like to re-rank and blend search results with other Web content or their own proprietary content, or mash up search results with results from other data sources.
In a blog post, ZDNet's Larry Dignan asked and answered the very questions going through my head when I read the announcement. He wrote:
Why would you open all that investment to folks? Because you're not winning.
The folks at Yahoo at this point must have decided that they have more to gain by sharing the technology than by not doing so. Those who participate in the BOSS program have to agree to support Yahoo's advertising before they can get their hands on the APIs, according to Dignan. If the program draws a large number of users, then Yahoo at least has potential ad revenue. On the other hand, if the program doesn't take off, Yahoo can't be much worse off than it already is.