Yahoo’s Excellent Search System for Websites (BOSS)

By Chris on August 25, 2010 in Web Design Snippets

This is an article written by Judith Lewis of i-Level serch  that explains all about the search facility I have used on a number of websites that utilises the power of Yahoo’s Search Engine to create a ‘vertical’ search system – in short it’s great for turning your website into a search engine to not just search your site, but the whole web at the same time.

Vertical search has for some time been identified as the next generation of search.  With Yahoo’s new Build your Own Search Service (BOSS), anyone with a modicum of programming skills can build a vertical search engine for their site, or within a vertical across numerous sites.  Judith Lewis, search director at i-level, investigates this technology.

For a number of months, reports within the SEO (search engine optimisation) industry have been of the rise of vertical search as the next big thing.  Much has been written, and theorised, about with regards to the power of a focused search engine where a human editor has taken the time to only include relevant sites.  As this is becoming such a popular technology, it was refreshing to see Yahoo open up its database of billions of web pages to developers to build their own search engines on.
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The barriers to building a custom search engine have often been not the filtering of results, but rather the spidering and storage of webpage information.  Cost has been prohibitive, scaling has been difficult and in one example I experienced the ranking algorithm itself was not working as expected.  One major issue for business has been the forced presentation of those customised search results, with the display format often dictated to the business and not chosen by the business.  These barriers have made the expected rise of vertical search much slower than anticipated by industry knowledge leaders.

Through BOSS (Build your Own Search Service), Yahoo has now enabled anyone to create their own search engine which queries Yahoo’s database of billions of webpages, and filter those results as desired.  It is now possible for a business to create a search engine which includes only those sites that the business wishes to be included.  According to Yahoo it should only take a few hours – less than a day – to create a vertical search engine.

The filtered results can be drawn from four pre-existing areas of Yahoo’s database of the web – the whole web, news, images and spelling.  The filtering of the results obtained from those verticals can be as tight as required, or as relaxed as needed.  There will be the ability in the future for businesses to upload information to the Yahoo servers that they wish to be included in that vertical search as well, making it very specialised.  The result of these queries can then be displayed in a format suited to the website they are coming from and not one imposed by the engine.
By providing this interface to its databases, Yahoo is providing an opportunity for anyone to create competition in the search engine landscape.  In a search world dominated by a single player, this must seem like good news.   For search market watchers, it will remain to be seen if this move negatively impacts on Yahoo’s search market share.

For businesses, this makes providing a service to their users of a targeted vertical search engine much easier to create and deliver within the website theme.  While it is unlikely a “Google killer” will be created using this technology, specialist websites such as those targeting mothers and babies or clothing or celebrity gossip will find it much easier to add to their offerings a search engine specific to their users needs.  BOSS could be about to become the first major step in the rise of vertical search.
If you would like to learn more about Yahoo BOSS, information can be found at and if you would like to see some examples of what is possible, please visit


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