Yandex search island.png
An example of Yandex' new search "island."

Yandex is the latest search engine to announce new revisions designed to make it a faster, more useful tool as Russia’s largest search engine announced the launch of “islands” this week. 

Unlike Solzhenitsyn’s archipelago, this grouping of islands is intended to offer more freedom to users – such as booking movie tickets or making restaurant reservations right on the results page. Yandex describes this as allowing users to “action their query,” and it is in keeping with Google’s, Yahoo’s and Bing’s improvements to flatten the chain of clicks needed to get something done, by bringing useful information where the results are.

Solving a Problem

Yandex CTO Ilya Segalovich said in a statement that “apps have changed people’s expectations of usability, especially on mobile.” He added that people searching on the rich media Web “are often looking to carry out an action,” instead of clicking on a link, going to a site and then possibly having to click through several more pages to arrive at the desired result.

As the company notes on its Web site, “the ultimate goal of a web search isn’t always a piece of information,” but, on occasion, a solution to a specific problem. Some of Yandex’ islands provide website descriptions below search results, others have sitelinks, and still others offer direct interaction, such as filling out fields to check on flight status for a specific passenger.

The island’s information is not determined by Yandex, but by the Website owner. Websites choos whether snippets from a site will be offered, and, if they are to be offered, what information they will contain, what interactivity they can feature and how they will look.

Device-Specific Islands

Yandex said that the toolset it has developed will be able to deliver islands for a variety of form factors, rolling out first for PCs and tablets, and then for smartphones. Geographically, the tools will first be made available for Yandex’s 8 million users in Turkey, then to users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan within a few months. The company said it will be improving its toolset so that websites will be able to “tune their interactive snippets” for specific search parameters, such as search terms, a user’s search history, a location or a device.

Tuning for a device, for instance, might mean that a search for The Great Gatsby movie on a PC could yield an island with the beginning of a film review, while a search for the same movie on a mobile device could show times at the closest movie theater and a ticket-buying form. And searching on an Internet-connected TV might display an island with a description and a link to a pay-per-view screening.