Check out Yahoo Mindset ( http://mindset.research.yahoo.com/ ). I think that this is a great start. The number one vector to divide is the commercial vs. Informational query results since 80% of queries are strictly informational in nature. Mindset allows the user to give more weight to either commercial results or informational results using a slider. I liked it a lot, and although they have to perfect their algorithm, it is going a long way to ushering in a new generation of internet search services.
My feedback to Yahoo re: Mindset submitted on their site:
First, congratulations on beating Google to the punch one more time. I have never been satisfied with Yahoo query results, but after using Mindset I can say that I will probably switch to the Mindset beta in lieu of Google (at least 50/50) because for the first time a search puts the power in the users' hands. I rarely search for products using SE's and have often been frustrated by the numerous irrelevant results for commercial sites that my queries produced. I have tried services like Teoma and Grokker to name just a few. I haven't been fully satisfied with any of them. Grokker, a Yahoo partner, goes a long way to providing results in a digestible manner since only 20% of users go beyond the first page of a classical SERP. However, Grokker is not robust enough. At the most granular level it has one result instead of 20. Teoma's groupings are pretty good, but I think that algorithm behind it isn't very strong and it has a way to go. All that said, the most important vector to split is the commercial vs. Informational results vector. Since 80% of queries are for information-only purposes, it makes sense that we separate the commercial results for the majority of queries. As far as I know, you guys are the only ones to do that effectively to date. I love it. It goes a long way to refining my results.
However, I think that the more power you put in the users' hands, the more you will kick Google's behind and the more you will profit. Since Google is wasting it's time with fruitless conquests do more with the search, Yahoos! For one, put all the advanced functionality on the main UI instead of behind a link. The reason why there is a small click through to the advanced features is not only that people wouldn't use them but also because it is more tedious to click that damn link. Also, make a better graphical GUI for the functionality; most users aren't programmers and shy away from Boolean logic. I think that another great improvement that any search engine can make is adding the ability to add weights to your search terms. For example, if I am looking for treatments for poison oak, I don't want to give "treatments" as much weight at "poison oak" because I will be getting results for non-relevant treatments for things like a hang over.
I think that slider is a great tool. Give users a few fields for words and phrases and give those fields sliders to allow users to determine the weight on each of those words. Think about similar implementations in photo editing SW where you can adjust (give weight) to contrast, darkness, color, shades, etc.
Additionally, it would be great to see a Grokker-like implementation of Yahoo search. I think that it is brilliant how Grokker groups the results. It is simple to user, intuitive, and powerful. The only drawbacks are speed and robustness as mentioned above. However, with increasing connection speeds the quickness becomes less of an issue. The robustness can be very easily solved; just list the top 20 results for the most granular level. Also, it would be nice if clicking on the larger categories gave a compiled list. Buy Grokker and expand it; they are really onto something.
From a user's perspective, I don't care that a search takes a millisecond if I then have to spend a couple of minutes sifting through the jumbled results. Give users improved methods to filter and digest the search queries (like Mindset) and you will win a huge market. Everyone is praying for Search 2.0 . Please take us out of the dark ages!
As a former Google employee, it takes a lot to break my loyalties and say "Good job Yahoo!" but you guys deserve it. Competition and innovation are great for customers and good for business.