By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 11:20 am
I’m at Yahoo this morning for a press event the company is holding about its search activities. One overarching goal, clearly, is to make the case that Yahoo intends to remain an innovative force in search even assuming that its deal with Microsoft goes through and Bing’s index winds up as the basis of Yahoo’s search features.
Unlike yesterday’s Google Buzz launch, Yahoo’s event doesn’t involve any major announcement. We’ve seen a few brief recaps of minor recent additions to Yahoo’s search features, and gotten some quick previews of features in the works. The most interesting of the latter demos was of an iPhone app that lets you draw an outline with your fingertip on a map to indicate a geographic area, then get local results–for instance, to find restaurants on the waterfront.
Here’s a lousy photograph of the feature in action:
Yahoo says the goal is to let people search as easily as kids draw with an Etch-a-Sketch–it calls this feature “sketch-a-search.” As someone who spent a lot of time with an Etch-a-Sketch in my youth, the metaphor doesn’t quite make sense: The defining feature of the Etch-a-Sketch is that it’s hard to get a picture out of it that’s anything like the one you might have in your head. (It’s a lot of fun to try, though.)
I do like Sketch-a-Search, though–I’ve certainly spent a lot of time on the iPhone and other phones futzing with maps and having trouble zooming in to the geographical area I care about. I tend to end up either with the entire United States or a one-block radius, when what I really want is a region of half a mile or so.
Yahoo didn’t have anything to say about when or how they’ll make Sketch-a-Search available to consumers.