Joshua Allen wrote an interesting post about how SearchMonkey is disruptive because it could enable semantic Web technologies. Basically the “Semantic Web” is a more meaningful internet (see my post from 2004 for a better description). Internet inhabitants have been trying unsuccessfully to bootstrap the semantic Web for a while. Google has the power to make it happen, but doing so would risk loosing their competitive advantage in Web search. If Google supported semantic Web formats like RDF, publishers would use it a lot more, and other search engines would have an easier time searching the Web.
SearchMonkey is interesting because it allows 3rd party developers to make use of Yahoo’s crawl of semantic data. This means the benefits of the index are shared without compromising Yahoo’s ownership of the index. The gamble is that Google won’t be able to keep pace with the 3rd party developers’ features, and that the features would be good enough to motivate publishers to provide feeds.
In the SearchMonkey architecture, publishers provide data (semantic information about what has traditionally been represented as text on their Web sites). App developers create Presentation Applications to match this data to search results (which is also semantically enhanced). So, if I search for “Coldplay” an Amazon search result could be enhanced with a Last.fm “listen now” link (or vice versa). The main point is that Yahoo search facilitates Coldplay being recognized as a band.
This seems to me like a good bet for Yahoo, if it isn’t too late for them as a business given their recent troubles. Assuming an audience of Yahoo searchers still exists, an app ecosystem like the Facebook developer ecosystem should develop trying to capture the users. Publishers will also be motivated Data Feed hosting will become just another part of SEO.
One last point is that this would be a great place for Evri (and Freebase) to plug in. Evri (still in private beta) has been criticized for not having a search box. This would be a great way to expose Evri’s semantic understanding of specific people when they show up in a Yahoo search result.