Yahoo Inc. will introduce a tool for Web developers Thursday that is designed to expand the scale of its struggling search business and help create new competitors to Google Inc.
The company said the free tool will allow developers to build customized search services based on its own search technology — paving the way for new entrants. Yahoo hopes the service will increase the number of searches done through its service and generate more advertising revenue, since sites that incorporate the tool will eventually run Yahoo search ads.
Yahoo’s announcement comes as the company campaigns to convince investors and advertisers that it should continue to stay in the search business, after it turned down an offer to sell the business to Microsoft Corp. and struck a search-advertising agreement with Google.
Yahoo, Google and others already offer tools that companies can use on their own Web sites to conduct searches. Customers also can create custom search engines that search a select group of sites relevant to a particular theme.
Now, Yahoo says it is giving developers far more freedom to customize how their results are presented and how they are ranked. For example, a job-search site that collected profile data about its users could rank results based on where a user’s friends work.
Yahoo will launch the product, called BOSS — for “build your own search service” — with two initial partners: Hakia, a natural-language search engine, and Me.dium, which ranks Web pages based on the real-time browsing behavior of other Web users.
Prabhakar Raghavan, chief strategist for Yahoo search, said in an interview that BOSS aims to open up the search industry to a number of smaller players with unique insights about their users.
The move is part of Yahoo’s broader strategy to try to wrest the search spotlight from market leader Google Inc. by giving developers greater access to its plumbing. Earlier this year, the company released a product called SearchMonkey, which allows brands to expand the sorts of details about their companies that appear in Yahoo’s search results.
But Google isn’t standing still. The company recently rolled out a new paid service that allows businesses to embed Google search results on their Web sites and to rank certain pages higher. And niche search engines of the sort Yahoo is aiming to help build have been slow to take off as consumers prefer the one-size-fits all approach of Google and Yahoo.
The new product comes amid intense turmoil at Yahoo and changes within its search division. Vish Makhijani, senior vice president and general manager of search, announced his departure last month, leaving his responsibilities divided between Mr. Raghavan and Tuoc Luong, senior vice president for search engineering.