Yahoo has published another tool in their series of open technologies called SearchMonkey. The principle is that website owners can create a “data service” that runs an XSLT on their site output and then pipe it to a “presentation application” that produces a custom L&F for search results relating to your site.
There are better examples elsewhere, but the idea is simple. If your result looks better than the next guys, users are more likely to choose your link to click on. Altering the presentation of a search result seems like a massive security hole at first. I certainly wouldn’t want to give the world access to change how my search results appear. However, these enhanced are only available on an opt-in basis so a user can only change the presentation of their own search results. The Presentation Applications can be selected and enabled in their preferences.
I’m happy with the developer tools and speed with which a new presentation can be created, but only enabling these apps on an opt-in basis means that the vast majority of users won’t ever see them. As a small site owner, it would be nice is Yahoo would allow the modified search results to be the default based on my preferences (after proper authentication with Site Explorer or similar tool). Perhaps a simple flag similar to SafeSearch called something like “Use Enchanced Search Results” could be turned on in a users’ preferences enable these features. No one is going to install a presentation application for my tiny little blog. (Besides, most of my traffic comes from google.)
I’m worried that Yahoo is ignoring the Long Tail with SearchMonkey and only catering to large web properties. Given their new “open” motto, this seems rather out of character. The project would make a good way to separate them from Google and Live search, although it does share some usability features with Ask‘s Site Preview.
I plan on participating in their developer feedback program, so perhaps this is still possible with SearchMonkey.