Yahoo’s BOSS Advances Search APIs

John Musser, July 10th, 2008

bosslogoYahoo has taken a major step in the evolution of search APIs with today’s release of BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service). The BOSS platform lets developers build their own full-blown custom search applications on Yahoo’s index of the Internet, the same infrastructure that underlies Yahoo Search.

Yahoo’s blog announcement outlines what’s in today’s release and some of why it’s different than earlier search APIs:

  • Ability to re-rank and blend results — BOSS partners can re-rank search results as they see fit and blend Yahoo!’s results with proprietary and other web content in a single search experience
  • Total flexibility on presentation — Freedom to present search results using any user interface paradigm, without Yahoo! branding or attribution requirements
  • BOSS Mashup Framework — We’re releasing a Python library and UI templates that allow developers to easily mashup BOSS search results with other public data sources
  • Web, news and image search — At launch, developers will have access to web, news and image search and we’ll be adding more verticals soon
  • Unlimited queries — There are no rate limits on the number of queries per day

The RESTful API (our profile) lets developers query up to 50 items at a time with results returned in XML or JSON. Developers can choose to search from the web, news, image or spelling indexes.

Yahoo is highlighting some of their launch partners using BOSS: Me.dium, a search start-up with a unique collaborative browsing product is combining BOSS and real-time surfing data, there’s Hakia, the semantic search start-up, Daylife To-Go a hosted publishing platform from Daylife, and Cluuz that uses BOSS to help them offer their semantic cluster graphs, image extraction and tag clouds. In the example below, a custom app uses a “cover flow” model to allow you to flip through search result pages.


Use of the API is free but partners will be required to show Yahoo search ads. Which, given that Yahoo will do a revenue share with developers on these, may prove to be a win-win monetization strategy. Prabhakar Raghavan, chief strategist for Yahoo Search says: “We fully expect it to expand the footprint of Yahoo search advertising on the Web. There is no payment of any kind we expect from partners, but we do say in the terms of service up front that over time we will require them as they build and grow out to use our search advertising.”

Internet search APIs have had a somewhat tenous existence to date, with Google’s now deprecated SOAP API being the best known example. Search APIs from most vendors have struggled to balance between giving away the farm and finding a suitable business model that works for both provider and developer. Yahoo themselves in the announcement point out how much less restricted this API is than their earlier Search APIs: unlimited queries per day vs 5,000 previously, results can now be re-ordered, no restrictions on how the data is presented, blending of proprietary and Yahoo content allowed, and no attibution required.

Yahoo’s move with BOSS, both from a technology and business model perspective, may help spur a whole new generation of innovative search applications and mashups. As Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb notes: “it’s very exciting to imagine thousands of new Yahoo! powered niche search engines proliferating. Could Yahoo! plus the respective strengths and communities of all these new players challenge Google? We think they could.”

For more good analysis check out Vanessa Fox’s coverage at Search Engine Land.

Tags: Search, Yahoo
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6 Responses to “Yahoo’s BOSS Advances Search APIs”

July 10th, 2008
at 7:23 am
Comment by: A Yahoo! megnyitja a keresőmotorját at ‹Webakadémia /›

[...] saját keresőt! címmel, és persze a nagy blogok is beszámoltak róla: RWW, GigaOM, TechCrunch, ProgrammableWeb. « Az Opera [...]

July 10th, 2008
at 8:49 pm
Comment by: Veracity

XML output of search results is nothing new, it’s been around for years now; and frankly, has already been done better.

An established standard for XML output already exists. If you’re even slightly interested in BOSS, I highly recommend checking out OpenSearch, you can read about it out at It’s a simple spec that allows the sharing of search results.

Using OpenSearch, search aggregation has already been done on sites including A9 (, OpenSearchList ( and is used by products like Zoom MasterNode ( to aggregate search results of search engines, web accessible document databases and web feeders.

July 15th, 2008
at 11:32 pm
Comment by: Yahoo! BOSS has a $2000 bonus for the Daylife Developer Challenge « Vangelist

[...] Yahoo’s BOSS Advances Search APIs Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Some Good News Out Of Sunnyvale: A Yahoo Product That Looks Cool (YHOO)Build Your Own Search – Yahoo BOSSYahoo Radically Opens Web Search With BOSSYahoo Wields New Tool to Battle Google Tagged with: Daylife, mashup, yahoo « Announcing the Daylife Developer Contest – ends July 25th 2008 [...]

August 14th, 2008
at 12:38 am
Comment by: Yahoo’s Best BOSS Search Mashups

[...] month Yahoo! announced BOSS, its Build Your Own Search Service, which “allows developers and companies to create and [...]

September 29th, 2008
at 1:39 am
Comment by: Yahoo and Mashable Extend BOSS Mashable Challenge

[...] who create the best mashups with the Yahoo BOSS API. As many readers will recall from our earlier coverage on BOSS, the BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service) platform lets developers build their own full-blown [...]

August 9th, 2011
at 10:31 pm
Comment by: Krystallynn

Dag nabbit good stuff you whiperpsnapeprs!

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John Musser
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Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.