Yahoo! is currently beta testing a new search engine interface that it calls Alpha, which promises to bring advanced customization features to Internet searching. Version 1.0 of the product is scheduled for a public release soon, which will remove the amusing "Alpha (beta)" moniker from the site's main page.
Like other search aggregators before it—anyone remember Copernic?—Alpha takes the results of many different search engines and places the results for each search on a single page. Unlike Google's Custom Web Search, Yahoo! Alpha allows the user to fully customize the page, adding and changing the search panels to support any number of search engines, including competitors to Yahoo Search. The results are loaded using AJAX, so the entire page does not need to refresh when the results for a new search site are loaded. By default, results from Yahoo's own search engine appear on the main panel to the left, with other engines in dropdown boxes to the right.
The Yahoo Search main page.
Customizing the main page requires a Yahoo account, which is free. Once signed in, the user can rearrange the main page using a simple drag-and-drop interface. New search engines can be added using the "Custom info source" page, and not just regular search engines can be added here: any web site that parses search results as an RSS feed can be added to the layout. In a nod to the "Web 2.0" motif of collaboration, users can select a "share this layout with users" box that will allow other Yahoo members to view and copy their search configuration.
It's clear from efforts like Alpha and the customized search box for web site owners that Yahoo is serious about competing with Google and believes the best way to do this is to keep coming up with new and different ideas to get people to use their search engine. The company will have to keep trying, as Yahoo seems unable to make any headway in getting out of its second-place ranking behind the industry leader, Google.