Well, John Battelle’s blog post about open search a week ago possibly had this announcement in mind, and I am glad to see that my comments there on allowing developers to access and modify an open search index hit the nail on the head.
Techcrunch reports that Yahoo has radically opened its search framework with BOSS, which provides an API for retrieving Yahoo results, and for mixing those results with results from other sources. There are apparently no restrictions on how the results get presented, except that at some point it will become necessary to display Yahoo’s ads in or around the results.
BOSS Custom, the next step, which is currently available by invitation only, allows companies to add data to Yahoo’s index.
This is a huge step, and very exciting. It could generate a win for Yahoo by growing the size of the whole search market. For example, say some company, X Co, has an engine which tags telephone numbers in web pages, and provides a link for each allowing the user to call the numbers using Skype (or similar). Previously, such a service would be limited to X Co’s website or portal, and perhaps a few affiliated sites. Now, the service can be linked in to Yahoo Search directly and present those links with some or all search results. Both Yahoo and X Co get a bigger slice of the (bigger) market.