Yahoo Adds Instant Answers To Its Search Box

Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) is updating its search engine with a way for users to quickly find the information they are looking for right in the search box itself. Users who search for weather in a specific location, for instance, now immediately see a summary of the weather there without having to navigate to a new page. Similarly, users who look up an NBA basketball player see his stats directly in the search box.

“Search matters, it matters to us,” said chief product officer Blake Irving during a meeting with reporters. Irving said that Yahoo’s search partnership with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) allowed it to focus on user-experience updates like this one, which Yahoo is calling Search Direct, while Microsoft provides the back-end technology. Last fall, Yahoo also updated its results to include a box at the top of the list of search results that includes a summary of information they may be looking for.

Search Direct is similar to Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Instant, a feature Google introduced in September, in that it also surfaces results while a user types — and is designed to speed up the entire search process. But SVP Shashi Seth said that while Google Instant quickly provides links to search results, Yahoo’s update provides answers — a distinction executives repeatedly made.

For now, though, Yahoo’s Search Direct surfaces information in the search box for only 15 categories of results, including movies, weather, sports and news. Seth said the ultimate goal is for it to work for “hundreds of categories.” He also said that advertisers would be able to buy placement directly in the search box.

The update is live in the U.S. now and will go global later this year. To check it out, try a search for Brad Pitt or a sports team here. Here’s a video describing how it works: