David Stuart

Web Analyst and Consultant

If/When Bing turns off Yahoo’s search operators: URL citations

Posted on | August 1, 2009 | 1 Comment

Bing-powered-Yahoo search will give the two organisations more bargaining power with potential advertisers, but it is bad news for innovation in search and the third-party users who build around the companies’ offerings. Yahoo and Microsoft have very different attitudes to sharing their data, whereas Yahoo have provided the great API – Yahoo BOSS - with extremely useful link search operators, Microsoft turned off their link operators.

The future of Yahoo BOSS seems unlcear, but I think the writing is on the wall. At the recent Bing roundtable I discussed the lack of operators with the general manager of Bing’s Search Technology Centre Europe. As he explained in a follow up email:

…the Bing API is designed to help people build a customer-facing search solution and to foster an ecosystem of sites and application that use Bing as their content service to augment the information they have with the corpus of knowledge in our indexes.

Basically Bing isn’t looking to be an innovative company using the wisdom of the crowd, they are looking to be a powerful company¬† who will tell the crowd how it can us its data.

Whilst they recognise “…we may lose some customers like yourself with the decisions we’ve made”, with the likely loss of Yahoo BOSS, there are few places for customers like myself to go. Nonetheless it is time to start investigating some of the alternatives that are available.

In addition to the ‘link’ command available through Google API and Exalead (which finds links to a specific page rather than a whole domain) you can also search for URL citations. URL citations are mentions of a hyperlink in a web document whether they are linked or not, and searching for a domain name in Google also returns those sites which link to a page in the domain.

For example:


Just returns 93 hits. The majority of which are selflinking pages, which are hard to get rid of as Google doesn’t seem to like the link operator and the site operator being used in the same query.

For instance link:blog.webometrics.org.uk -site:blog.webometrics.org.uk returns 2,710 hits, despite including an additional exclusive clause, because it stops treating link:blog.webometrics.org.uk as a single command and instead searches for the terms link blog webometrics org uk.

In comparison:

“blog.webometrics.org.uk” -site:blog.webometrics.org.uk

Whilst Google’s claim of 189 hits is an over-estimate, it nonetheless returns 95 pages, none of which are self-linking pages, and many of which link to specific pages or even photographs on my site. Without URL citations I would probably have never known that there was a picture of me on a site called “Enjoy Satan“!

Whilst URL citations are a partial solution, if Yahoo loses its operators, it is an opportunity for a smaller search engine to start making an impact. I think those worried about the loss of BOSS would be better petitioning an alternative search engine to provide a similar service rather than bothering trying to persuade Microsoft to keep it open. Yahoo BOSS is unlikely to fit with the Bing vision.


One Response to “If/When Bing turns off Yahoo’s search operators: URL citations”

  1. Naver: Looking beyond Google/Yahoo/Bing : David Stuart
    August 26th, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

    [...] AJAX API; Live/Bing dropped their link commands; whilst no one seems to know what will happen with Yahoo’s API in the future. With search engines potentially offering extremely valuable information it is worth [...]

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This blog is for letting people know some of the things I am working on, although it is extremely infrequent. As my writing has expanded from blog posts to professional journal articles, and finally to books, the number of blog posts I write on my various blogs has inevitably tapered off.

Why blog? For me it turned out to be the first step on the road to a book deal!

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