In case you haven’t noticed yet, Yahoo has been hard at work lately. If you missed it, Yahoo now has its own toolbar. In a similar fashion the Google toolbar works, Yahoo just introduced Web Rank™. Web Rank™ happens to be Yahoo’s new search engine algorithm, as well as the name it gave its new toolbar.
The Yahoo Web Rank™ toolbar works a bit like the Google PageRank™ toolbar and is a technical measurement of a particular URL’s popularity. If you download and install the Yahoo Web Rank™ feature on the Yahoo Companion Toolbar, an icon will display the Web Rank™ value of each URL that you visit.
Just like Google, Web Rank™ values range from 1 to 10, with the higher number depicting higher link popularity. So, it is hoped (!) that a site with a higher Web Rank will offer more information and content, at least that’s how it should work.
Note that Web Rank™ is only in Beta release, which means Yahoo is still experimenting with it and modifications in the way it works are possible, until the final version is released sometime in the next few weeks.
To help determine a site’s Web Rank™ value, Yahoo’s Companion Toolbar collects anonymous URL data about sites visited by toolbar users who have enabled the Web Rank™ feature and then sends that information back to Yahoo. According to Yahoo, the new toolbar does not collect personal identity information about you, such as your name, phone number, physical address or email address, etc.
The anonymous URL data is sent to Yahoo’s servers and the Web Rank™ value is returned to the Companion Toolbar as one single measurement of the popularity of the Web page or URL you are currently visiting.
You will see a small Yahoo icon on your Companion Toolbar, displaying the Web Rank™ value of the site you are currently visiting. The value will be between 1 and 10.
Yahoo’s Web Rank™ algorithm numbers are calculated using a sophisticated scoring formula developed in Yahoo’s labs that provides a measure of the popularity of the Web page or Web site that you are viewing.
Installing Yahoo’s new Web Rank™ toolbar is easy. With the help of Yahoo’s Companion Toolbar, you will have the option of enabling the Web Rank™ feature. If you want to use it, choose the “Install with Web Rank” button on the configuration panel and the Web Rank™ feature will be enabled during the installation of your new toolbar. It took me less than two minutes to do the whole thing.
Once you have it installed on your machine, should you ever change your mind, you can turn it off if you want. Doing this is easy: from the Yahoo Companion Toolbar, just click the “Toolbar Settings” button and uncheck “Enable Web Rank.” That way, the Companion Toolbar will stop collecting anonymous URL data about the sites you visit once Web Rank™ has been disabled.
If you are running your toolbar from a corporate network and if you need to disable it, you will need to block http://cpn.yahoo-webrank.net at your firewall or proxy server. This will disable the Web Rank feature from sending any anonymous URL data back to Yahoo’s servers.
Do you really need the Yahoo Companion Toolbar?
You don’t need to install the Companion Toolbar if you don’t want too. Yahoo’s Web Rank™ feature is opt-in only and it’s not required to install the Companion Toolbar if you don’t need it. If you decide to have it installed, you will be asked if you would like to enable the Web Rank™ feature in the toolbar.
If you choose to enable it, a toolbar icon will display the Web Rank™ value for the URL that you are currently visiting, if that value is in fact available.
Web Rank’s cool new features
I had time to experiment with Yahoo’s new toolbar and discovered some cool new features. One of them is what Yahoo calls “Recent Searches”. This feature is a pull down menu of your last 30 search terms through Yahoo Companion. At the time I tested it, 12 query terms were directly visible and I could access an additional 18 with the scroll bar.
According to Yahoo, no information is ever sent back to any of their servers on any of your recent searches. If, for privacy reasons or otherwise, you want to turn off “Recent Searches”, you can do it at any time by selecting the ‘Clear Recent Searches’ under the “Toolbar Settings” button. That button has a small picture of a pencil on it to better help you find the button.
The Recent Searches feature can be disabled entirely by deselecting the menu item called ‘Enable Recent Searches’ through the “Toolbar Settings” menu. This action will delete all the recent search terms in the client and disable the feature.
Other features and benefits to searchers
Yahoo’s new Web Rank™ algorithm has even more features. It can also provide the following important benefits to its users:
1) It will help Yahoo identify critical new trends and usage habits in Internet activity, in an effort to better enhance the quality and relevance of the products and services people are searching on.
2) It will also help Yahoo to correctly identify new websites faster, and then add these newer sites into its search index, resulting in more relevant results and significantly improved overall search results.
Features and benefits to webmasters and site owners
For site owners and webmasters, the new Yahoo Web Rank™ algorithm will also deliver the following features and benefits:
1) Yahoo’s Web Rank™ algorithm delivers a valuable indicator of how popular your site is perceived by other site visitors or webmasters.
2) Additionally, Yahoo’s new Web Rank™ algorithm will help alert Yahoo’s Slurp (Yahoo’s search crawler or spider robot), to the existence of a particular website or Web page, and direct its spider to visit that website or Web page for inclusion in its search index, if it isn’t already in it.
As I have written in my last article on the New Yahoo, it is clear now that Yahoo wants to not only conserve its lead position on Google, but it also wishes to improve on it. The next few months should be exciting, as the industry witnesses other new developments, either in new search engine algorithms or new toolbars and the like.
This industry is advancing at break-neck speed and I predict that the search engine industry will be a $ 30 Billion-plus industry in 2005-2006. Judging at the speed the Internet is growing, it may well be over $ 100 Billion by 2010.
Copyright (c) 2004 Serge Thibodeau
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