Last year (Feb 11, 2009), Yahoo announced upcoming usage fees for its BOSS API. At that time, I wrote up my thoughts on BOSS monetization.
That was before the Microsoft/Yahoo search deal. Yesterday, Yahoo! announced more upcoming BOSS changes in light of that deal. Or, they announced that nothing will change...
BOSS will apparently remain in existence despite Bing's powering of Yahoo! organic results. And BOSS will get a fee structure just like was proposed last year. Actually, it might be a bit better than that because there is talk of a revenue share program that would waive fees, but we'll have to wait for the details on that come out.
While I use BOSS myself for DuckDuckGo, and will probably continue to do so in some capacity, I find the idea of paying for it a bit curious for a few reasons.
- Downtime. BOSS has had a lot of down time. Recently, it was down for about 24 hours straight. You can't build a reliable search engine on that kind of down time. Moreover, there is no API status dashboard, which I've pushed for, and there is also no reliable way to communicate with Yahoo! about BOSS downtime. They say to use the usergroup, but is anyone really checking it at 4AM? It doesn't seem like it.
If I'm paying I would hope to have an SLA with some way to reach the ops team. Sometimes it feels like I'm the only one monitoring! I get alerted (by email and text message) when it goes down and report it after I determine it isn't my fault. And I'm pretty much the only one reporting it like this.
- Bing. If Bing is powering Yahoo's organic results, will it also be powering BOSS? The announcement seems to indicate this will be the case. If so, why not just use Bing's API, which is currently free and would give the exact same results? If not, then why wouldn't we expect it to just degrade in quality as Yahoo spends less time and money on generating their own organic results (e.g. on crawling, indexing, etc.)?
If I'm paying I would hope to have solid answers to these questions. I hope that they do continue crawling and indexing, because for me I'd like to use reliable independent APIs. Otherwise, the combined entity is essentially a single point of failure, or maybe single+epsilon.
- Bugs/Roadmap. There have been a lot of outstanding bugs in the BOSS API for a while now, which I have worked around. For example, the API will change your query in some cases and won't tell you. There hasn't been great communication as to a roadmap, and I get the sense that everything was sort of on hold for a long time because of the Microsoft deal. If the commitment to BOSS is serious, please start treating it accordingly.
In any case, DuckDuckGo should be fine!
Update: in hope that this post does not come across as complaining, I want to add that I'm very grateful for the BOSS platform. I don't know where I'd be today without it. At the same time, I'm in a somewhat unique position to comment on it, and I think the above are valid concerns with regards to charging for it that could benefit from more public discussion.
Update2: Ashim (head of BOSS) just released this update on the forum, clarifying that indeed BOSS Web results will be powered by Bing in the future.