How Does Yahoo's "Search Direct" Compare to Google Instant

"I'll just Yahoo it." That is the statement the second largest search engine in the world, Yahoo! Inc, hopes millions of Internet users make now that upgrades to its search product have been released. Sure, the new search on Yahoo is instant and user-friendly. But is it really enough to make Internet users stop saying "I just Googled it."

“I’ll just Yahoo it.” That is the statement that the second largest search engine in the world, Yahoo! Inc, hopes more and more Internet users say now that upgrades to its search product have been released. Sure, the new search on Yahoo is instant and user-friendly. But is it really enough to make Internet users stop using that verb, “Google”?

Yahoo’s new service, dubbed Search Direct, is a direct swipe at the Google Instant technology released just last year by the number one search engine in the world, Google Inc.

Where Google Instant predicts a search term after only a few words are typed, Search Direct starts working as soon as you click inside the search window.

The search features a dropdown box that displays the latest trending searches before you start typing and delivers instant answers, so that typing in just “amzn” pulls up a box with stock quotes about Amazon.com.

That type of instant, relevant information delivered while you’re still in the search box is the plus side, while the negative may be that you are more often than not, predictably, directed to Yahoo’s own content.

Google and Yahoo, of course, are joined by Bing as the top three search engines on the Web. Google has dominated from the start, while Bing and Yahoo have been mired in a battle for runner-up.

Yahoo’s share of the U.S. search market fell from 20 percent in March 2009 down to 16.1 percent in February 2011, according to comScore.

In that same time, Bing’s share rose nearly 5 percentage points to 13 percent, while Google’s grew to 65.4 percent from 63.7 percent.

Yahoo made sure to compare its new experience to Google’s technology, saying that Google’s feature simply pulls search-result pages faster, while Search Direct brings people answers “incredibly quickly.”

“I want you to remember three words: ‘answers, not links,'” said Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s vice president for search products at the product’s launch. “We are redefining the search process and prominently displaying direct answers where search decisions are being made.”

Followers of the high stakes search engine war will recall that when Google launched Google Instant last year wasted no time stealing their thunder, reminding readers in a blog post that Yahoo originally launched an instant search feature in 2005.

“While many have suggested that innovation in the search experience is waning, we celebrate industry enhancements that build upon past innovation,” wrote Seth at the time. “Though the advancement came too early for some, and the results were too overwhelming for others, Yahoo filed patent applications on the feature and continued to build upon and innovate in the search experience.”

The service, now in public beta, offers search answers in 15 categories, including sports, entertainment and weather. Yahoo says it will expand to other Yahoo products and markets later this year.

So is the even newer Yahoo better than the still-new Google? It may be a personal preference, but also dependent on what type of information you are looking for.

PCWorld pulled the following two examples, you decide:

NCAA hoops fanatics who type “march madness” in Yahoo Search Direct will see this:

By comparison, Google Instant users entering the same query will see this (partial results page shown):

Let’s do a weather example. Here’s what you’ll see when you type “91301 weather” in Yahoo Search Direct:

And the same query in Google Instant:

Users who long for the days of Yahoo old have an option too, still. Hitting the Enter key will take you back to a traditional search results page, full of the blue links you’ll recall.

So which of the two just-debuted search engine technologies ranks top for you, Yahoo or Google?