Jean Véronis

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vendredi, février 08, 2008

Yahoo: Multilingual suggestions

A lot has been said about Yahoo! lately. The company is clearly suffering from image problems, and a certain lack of coherence… But I’ve already had the opportunity of pointing that out (for example here, or here…), its technology is not bad at all and in a certain number of cases it is even superior to that of Google.

This is the case for example with search suggestions. It’s true that Google announced this function as of late 2004, three years earlier than Yahoo! [Nostalgia trip: it was one of the first postings (fr) I wrote on this blog...] We’re now familiar with Ajax and relatively blazé about Web 2.0 (which already sometimes seems dated), but remember: at the time, this type of interactive technology (based on Javascript and XMLHttpRequest, see reverse-engineering here) was a small revolution…

The problem with Google Suggest, as with many other Google technologies, is that it has hardly evolved since it was launched. It’s true that it has been integrated into the Toolbar and the service home page no longer says “beta”, but I can hardly see any changes compared with 2004. Especially as, unless I’m mistaken, Google Suggest still doesn't distinguish between languages, which is really awkward for us French speakers (and a few other internet users throughout the world).

So, when I type “ala” in my search box, I get suggestions concerning Alaska airlines, Alamo car rental or alarm clocks, which are not exactly subjects of interest for your average Frog.

Yahoo! took three years longer (that just might be their problem...) but the version which came out in December (after coming out in October in the States) is "localized":

It is even better designed than Google Suggest, as it knows how to search in individual words inside complex requests:

Compared with Google Suggest, which settles for searching in the first word:

Other interesting functions from a linguistics point of view have also appeared recently with Yahoo! I’m a little short of time these days (I’m sure you've noticed ;-) but I'll try to come back to this... Anyway, once again I find it hard to understand the disdain internet users have for Yahoo! (especially in France). Questions of image, marketing, buzz... That’s the way the world goes round, and the Web with it!

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