Sunday, February 22, 2004

NYT: The Search Engine That Isn't a Verb, Yet

NYT: The Search Engine That Isn't a Verb, Yet "But now Mr. Semel must win over a tougher audience: Silicon Valley. In many ways, Yahoo's main rival is Google, started five years ago by two brainy Stanford graduate students who believed, against conventional wisdom, that sophisticated computer science could produce better Web searches.
They were right. Google has become not only a verb but also a profitable company with a reported $1 billion in sales. It is expected to be the hottest initial public offering this year. And now Google is preparing to offer a free e-mail service, people close to the company said, in a bid for Yahoo's most important source of loyal customers.
Mr. Semel, meanwhile, inherited a Web search business that was largely a Potemkin village. Yahoo was founded in 1994 as a directory of cool Web sites, but most users considered it a search engine. The company, however, saw itself more as a place that packaged experiences for consumers and sold ads. So it had other companies do the hard technical work of indexing billions of Web pages, which is what search is all about. That led Yahoo, before Mr. Semel arrived, to hire Google, unwittingly giving its future rival crucial early exposure.
Mr. Semel soon realized that the company had helped create a monster. So he has spent $2 billion trying to assemble his own Google, buying Inktomi, the Web search software company, and Overture Services, the pioneering seller of search advertising.
Last week, Yahoo finally replaced Google's search results with its home-brewed search engine, which uses a robot, called Slurp, to read Web pages. Experts say Yahoo's new search engine is credible and roughly comparable to Google's. And more important, Yahoo appears committed to the sort of engineering work that is needed to improve the quality of Web searches.
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