Yesterday we had a post about the "features war" between Google and Bing. But don't think that's all there is. Coming soon to a computer near you, is the Yahoo!-Bing Search Alliance. Yahoo! is Beta testing Bing powered search results on its platform. According to Search Engine Land blog, the change should be completed by September or October of this year. Right now the primary thrust of the Search Alliance is for commercial purposes. In fact, some commercial software companies are selling packages to ease that transition.
Ultimately, however, the conjoining of parts of the search functions of Bing and Yahoo could produce a new form of search engine. Right now Yahoo is providing Bing organic search results for 25% of their traffic. (An organic search result is a result that is relevant to the search terms. A non-organic search result is commercial based, i.e., advertisement based. Any search on any search engine will bring up both. The organic results usually bear some relation to the original search terms while the advertisement results may not.)
One of the most powerful parts of the Yahoo search interface has always been the ability to use of the Yahoo hierarchy, or what's left of it. Admittedly, as searching behavior has changed, this is not as important as it once was. Still, for legal researchers, imposing the a Yahoo-like hierarchical structure onto a search engine algorithim may produce something that looks and feels like the West digest system. Think about the power of using a hierarchical system (like the digest) that is supplemented (think focus or locate) by the use of keywords. Only time will tell if this is what the final product will look like or act like but it does present the possibility of an intriguing future.