Search Engines Go Mobile

Yahoo Local launches SMS messaging of business information, while Ask Jeeves prepares to move into wireless search later this year.

Web search is cutting the computer cord as the major engines increasingly introduce new ways of retrieving search results through mobile phones and devices.

Yahoo Inc. expanded its mobile search offerings Thursday with a local search feature for sending business-listing information to mobile phones. Meanwhile, Ask Jeeves Inc. has confirmed that it plans to offer wireless search capabilities later this year.

Yahoos latest offering follows its introduction in October of Yahoo Search for Mobile, a service for accessing Web, image and local search results from browser-enabled mobile devices.

Now, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo is letting Web users send information from Yahoo Local results to their mobile devices as text messages.

The SMS (Short Message Service) message includes the business name, phone number, address and cross street from search results. In some cases, the message also provides a link that will initiate a call to the business.

The SMS feature is available across major U.S. wireless carriers such as Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, Sprint PCS and T-Mobile, Yahoo announced.

"Users really want it both ways," said Paul Levine, general manager of Yahoo Local. "So, when folks are on the Web site and are looking for phone numbers and browsing for restaurants, rather than scribbling something on a piece of paper, they want something on their device when theyre on the go."

Search-engine executives credit the rapid rise in mobile-phone usage for the growing interest in making search results more accessible through wireless devices. So far, the approaches from search engines have either integrated search-engine interfaces into mobile browsers or used text messaging to retrieve targeted results.

Search leader Google Inc. last year launched an SMS service for sending specialized search queries as text messages and retrieving answers such as phone-book listings, dictionary definitions or product prices.

While Ask Jeeves is offering few details about its wireless plans for this year, it is working on figuring out which types of search results make the most sense for mobile access, said Daniel Read, vice president of product management at the Emeryville, Calif.-based search company.

"I dont know what the right approach is right now," Read said. "Its another one of these nascent areas [in search]."

But one approach Read does foresee is tying together wireless search and personalized search. Ask Jeeves, for example, last year launched its MyJeeves service for storing personal search results and favorite search queries. Users might want to access stored MyJeeves results such as weather conditions when they are using wireless devices, Read said.

"People are building up their own personal search data, and theres a lot of evidence to show that people want to access that data while they are on the move," Read said.

The search engines largely have introduced their wireless search services for free and without the sponsored-link ads that make them money on the Web. Yahoos SMS feature is free of ads, but Levine said that is mainly because of limitations in the format of text messages.

"Certainly as we go to richer formats, then theyll probably be room for advertising of some sort," Levine said.


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