Yahoo looks to free games, open source search for growth

Business Materials 11 July 2008 06:02 (UTC +04:00)

Yahoo will offer users a slew of advertising-supported games and allow companies to piggyback on its search technology, the company announced Thursday, dpa reported.

The moves came as Yahoo seeks to assure investors of its potential as an independent company in the face a shareholder revolt that may force the internet firm to sell all or parts of itself to software giant Microsoft.

The search strategy would allow outside companies and developers to access Yahoo's powerful search technology and to build their own specialized search technologies to would target specific markets, offer new interfaces or emphasize links to social-networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

Yahoo hopes that by spurring innovation, the open-source system called BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service), will extend Yahoo's reach and allow it to collect a share of the revenue from advertising that accompanies those search results.

"BOSS opens up the playing field for developers and companies to disrupt the search market, become principals in search and build new Web search experiences that offer more choice for users," said Prabhakar Raghavan, Yahoo's chief strategist for search.

Yahoo's main competitors, Google and Microsoft, already offer software that lets users create customized searches, but neither of those programs goes nearly as far as Yahoo in opening all the company's basic search protocols to outside developers.

Yahoo said that it would offer its users hundreds of popular, casual online games as free downloads backed by revenue from advertising integrated into the games. More than 400 such games from top casual games publishers would be available to users before yearend, Yahoo said.

The market for casual online gamers has experienced huge growth in recent years, and the move by Yahoo could help advertisers target one of their most sought-after demographics - women between the ages of 35 and 54, who are among the most frequent players of such games.

Such moves may help Yahoo persuade investors that it can leverage its position as one of the most popular sites on the internet to better compete with Google without the need to sell itself to Microsoft.

Microsoft abruptly broke off talks to buy the company in early May after Yahoo rejected its 47.5-billion-dollar buyout bid, which valued the company at 33 dollars a share.

Yahoo's shares subsequently fell to around 20 dollars a share but jumped almost 12 per cent Monday after Microsoft said it might revive the offer if rebel shareholders led by activist investor Carl Icahn won an August 1 proxy battle to oust the board and Yahoo chief executive and founder Jerry Yang. Icahn, a billionaire corporate raider, accused Yang and the Yahoo board of sabotaging the Microsoft negotiations.