In a post that falls into the classic trap of thinking that search is the only way Yahoo can increase market share, my friend Joe recently posed an odd question:

Perhaps the choice is simply overwhelming people who are thus choosing to stick with Google's search interface (still simpler than Yahoo's). Malcolm Gladwell has noted that when presented with too many purchase options people actually may choose fewer items than if presented with a smaller number of options. Could Yahoo's problem be that they simply are doing too GOOD of a job ushering in Web 2.0?

I really doubt that's the case.

First of all, the complexity of our search interface (which likely means "the search results page") has little if anything to do with "Web 2.0" that I can figure. In fact, over the last year or so Google's search result pages have started to look a bit more like ours. They've become a bit more complex, busy, or some might even say cluttered.

Second of all, doing a good job of ushering in anything new on the web means doing it in a way that's meaningful and useful to people. If we're doing things that drive people away (or fail to attract them), I don't see how anyone can call that GOOD (in all CAPS no less). It's something we need to fix.

Finally, I don't think Gladwell's idea applies here. Joe is confusing "choice" with "understanding" or maybe "recognition." As I understand it, Gladwell was talking about equal choices: choosing among 5 models of coffee makers versus 50 of them. Search results pages on Google and Yahoo are a blend of different elements, not all of which are the same: advertisements, organic results, more advertisements, related search terms, etc.

Besides, if too much choice was really a problem, we'd expect to see a lot more people using "I'm feeling lucky" on Google, wouldn't we?

Posted by jzawodn at June 27, 2006 08:35 PM

Reader Comments
# Michael Moncur said:

Skipping to the last question, I think the main problem with "I'm feeling Lucky" is that nobody knows what it does. If the button said "skip to first result" I think more people would use it.

The Yahoo search page is about as simple as Google's these days. I think people use Google for two main reasons: First, search result quality (Yahoo isn't quite there IMHO) and second, reputation.

on June 27, 2006 10:15 PM
# John K said:

Yahoo could also get rid of paid inclusion in their search results if they wanted to battle Google at a relevance level.

I don't mean the ads that are indicated as such, rather SERPs that come from feeds allowing non-relevant results to get high ranking.

Not that it would matter. Google = search. Yahoo = mail.

on June 27, 2006 10:38 PM
# Foo said:

Paid inclusion has nothing to do with ranking. It's not called "paid ranking", just inclusion, meaning it will be included in the index and ranked by the same metrics as other pages the crawler happens to find.

on June 28, 2006 06:10 AM
# Anonymous coward said:

What do you mean by "models of coffee" ? :)

on June 28, 2006 09:39 AM
# chuck said:

anything that references malcom gadwell is suspect at best - what a joke of an author (and 2 books)

on June 28, 2006 11:32 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


That includes your comment then, right? :-)

on June 28, 2006 11:33 AM
# Graeme Williams said:

I like the fact that Yahoo!, Google, and to a lesser extent Microsoft, are moving very, very fast in introducing new web services. To the extent that Yahoo! is hitting any sort of complexity limit, I think it has more to do with navigating between services than it has to do with the format of a particular page.

I *love* Yahoo! My Web, but a few days ago I was using someone else's browser, and so didn't have access to the toolbar button I usually use to grab pages. Because this is still in beta, whatever that means nowadays, it took me a long time to find a link from anywhere in Yahoo. The URL turns out to be Piffle!

Google does a little better at this, since they tend to put their 'foo' service at

on June 28, 2006 01:51 PM
# Dennis Tracz said:

I'm an old guy (50) and non technical but really enjoy your blog and the comments and observations by you and the readers.

My feeling is that yahoo in general is too 'blinky' and cluttered; kind of like aol or even Excite!

google is clean and simple; text ads are better on the user experience.

on June 28, 2006 04:30 PM
# Joseph Hunkins said:

Actually it was a sloppy post by me and I think I dropped some sentences. By "too many choices" and Yahoo 2.0 goodness I was not really talking about the search page choices, rather what I see as "too low" usage of things like Yahoo 360, groups, Flickr, Traffic, APIs, etc.

Maybe I need to do the posts *before* I have a couple of drinks?

on June 29, 2006 12:10 AM
# Muhammad Qasim said:

Well, i think google SERPs are full of garbage and junk result, sandboxed for 6 months, most of the websites i know are getting away with doorways and cluttering.

One of the main reason is google sometimes shows results that are less relevant and fresh while if you search yahoo you get the most fresh and relevant content no matter if site has been launched couple of weeks back.

Advertisements: way too much on google, but still overture is the biggest pay per click engine, anyways, i belive the way yahoo serves ads on the SERPs is way better and user friendly then googles. Most of the time when you click on a google adwords item [ad] it says 404 file not found or sometimes nothing turns up and when you clean all the url parameters and hit the url directly it starts working. No such crap with yahoo, its simple and fast.

well i like yahoo, not coz yahoo pays me to but, yahoo has been out there and is satisfying my hunger of fresh content and information search.

so 2 thumbs up for yahoo...

The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone, and has nothing to do with google or yahoo, i speak for my self and myself alone.


on June 29, 2006 10:12 PM
# said:

It still boils down to relevancy and quickness of SERPs

Google basically wins on that - however, they are declining in the Relevancy end

But Yahoo News is a REAL GEM - brilliantly contructed!!

on July 1, 2006 06:03 PM
# Bill Seitz said:

The search *results* pages are not too dissimilar, but the home page of the 2 sites are worlds apart.

I'm not sure whether that's what drives search market share, though.

It's possible it's mindshare driven by market perception and buzz, which says that Google is the king of search, and Yahoo is... hmm, what are you again?

on July 7, 2006 11:07 AM
# linda Kiser said:

I've always been very pleased with results I've gotten off
of Yahoo. Occasionally, I go to Yahoo, and it's ok, but still not as much as the google engine. I also have the
"I'm feeling lucky" search engine. This one I can't say
much for, and have been trying to figure out how to remoce
it. I like speed and relavance and I get both from google.
By the way, how do you remove a search engine you don't care for?

on August 19, 2006 07:43 AM
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