Yahoo! Inc, amid criticism from billionaire investor Carl Icahn for failing to keep up with Google Inc, is inviting outside developers to tinker with its Internet search software to lure more users.
The Build Your Own Search Service, or BOSS, will allow programmers to change the order and presentation of search results, enabling them to create search engines tailored to their own sites, Yahoo said today in a statement.
For instance, a custom search engine could emphasize links to social-networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
Yahoo, owner of the second most popular search service, is trying to add more users at the expense of Google, which fields about three times the number of queries in the US Programmers who develop custom search engines will be able to show ads next to results in the next few months, Yahoo said.
"What we're trying to do is create real innovation around search and disrupt the market," Bill Michels, senior director of Yahoo's open search platform, said in an interview.
Icahn is asking shareholders to replace Yahoo's board at the company's annual meeting on Aug. 1. He has vowed to oust Chief Executive Officer Jerry Yang and enter talks to sell Yahoo's search business or the entire company to Microsoft Corp.
Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, California, is working with large companies to build customised search engines for their sites, Michels said. He declined to name them. The company has also partnered with schools such as Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to research search technology.
Google's Offering: Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all offer software that lets users tweak their search engines. Google, based in Mountain View, California, released its custom search engine in October 2006. Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, offers "Search Macros" for creating personalised search pages.
Yahoo's programme may help developers find new ways to mine the Web for information, said Barry Parr, an analyst with JupiterResearch LLC in San Francisco.
"There may be some opportunities for new services that do genuinely new kinds of things," Parr said in an interview. "It's a lot less clear whether this will disrupt the search business as much as Yahoo might be hoping. Google continues to operate in a pretty disruptive manner."
Yahoo rose 19 cents to $24.01 at 9:32 am New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares had gained 2.4 per cent this year before today.