Compete.com have released some stats listing the top 50 website domains by unique visitors on their blog today. It makes for some interesting reading:
Yahoo is still the biggest domain in terms of unique users. Not surprising given their huge coverage, surely they have to come up with a way to make a success of all these eyeballs? They may lose out in search to Google but with such a vast web real estate finding a way to leverage that is key for them. Google however coming second is amazing considering their core is still search!

Facebook at number 21 is a bit of a surprise, I’d assumed they’d be higher given the buzz but perhaps they’ll position much higher next year (if their bubble doesn’t burst).

The growth figures in the blog post are most intersting, showing sites such as YouTube, Flickr and Digg as some of the biggest gainers (bigger even than Facebook). This certainly is the time of sharing content, something Facebook has yet to get right (they started off well but it’s lately disolved into MySpace’esque profile vanity).

Adult dating still a major growth area it would seem; the person who launches a Facebook for this domain will win big!

Of the losers, most intersting for me is the losses experienced by Expedia. This can only be down to the emergence of much better sites that give users more intuitive ways to search for flight & hotel availability. Online travel is much more competitive in that arena this year and with the move from tour operators to embrace dynamic packaging I can only see Expedia losing more eyeballs if they don’t make some significant functionality changes soon.

Since Yahoo bought Flickr it’s all been relatively quiet. Yahoo have made use of it on a couple of occasions, integrating Flickr images into some of their services but other than that nothing major has happened to change the service significantly. It does what it says on the tin and is my photo upload site of choice still.

Some announcements (courtesy of Techcrunch) were made last night which could reveal a new approach, or at least a new string to the Flickr/Yahoo bow.

They are adding new functionality to their geotagging by placing the tags onto maps making it much easier to search your way around the world. This is really just a catch up to Zooomr. The really interesting piece of functionality and the one which has the most relevance to the online travel world is the coming introduction of ‘places’ pages on Flickr.

‘Places’ will be pages which pull together the most interesting photos about a destination and tag associated with it. So you will be able to view pages on for example London/buildings. You’ll be able to explore over 70,000 places through photos, tags and featured photographers. Now, this is sounding like a very good source of destination content for the travel industry!

Here’s an example screenshot (courtesy Techcrunch)


The interesting thing will be to see if these new pages are monetised when they launch in the coming weeks. I’m sure Yahoo will place sponsored links on the pages but will they go one step further and place calls to action to book hotels, flights or trips to these destinations?

I’d say it’s a perfect opportunity for Yahoo. Yahoo Travel is a pretty good site now with their review, booking and destination information. Roll all of this into a location led service filled with great imagery and content and you could have a pretty interesting concept.

Of course the other opportunity for travel companies is what kind of access you will be able to get to these new pages through the Flickr API. Thomson and others already pull photos from Flickr, will you be able to pull content by place now? Much more useful, and less likely to be irrelevant to your users!

Here are the details of the forthcoming changes (courtesy Techcrunch via Scribd).

I posted the other day surmising whether Yahoo is catching up in search based on some new metrics from Compete. The general feel from that post was that they weren’t really and the numbers were questionable in value.

So, what should I see this morning? New, useful features in Yahoo’s main search interface, the kind of features that make search a whole lot less painful for users and add a lot of value, helping users to target searches more effectively.

The first thing I noticed was that they have integrated images from Flickr and also playable videos, kind of like Google’s universal search idea and equally as useful to the user. So if you search for a music artist (eg. Unkle) you should get images and video in the results along with useful additions such as links to albums, lyrics, photos and more videos. Next I did a search for a hotel (eg. ‘hudson hotel new york‘) in New York (being the online travel buff that I am) and the top result in this case was a Yahoo Local listing for the hotel complete with map links, again extremely useful (although possibly doing themselves out of a small amount of ad revenue here). Another cool feature is the inclusion of custom results for searches such as health related (eg. ‘lyme disease‘), quick easy access to relevant info is the killer in search and here Yahoo have it spot on.

And then there’s the biggest and most useful addition, and it’s an addition that Google haven’t yet implemented… It’s an AJAX based search assistant panel that appears if it senses you hesitate while typing a search query. It works as an auto-complete assistant and also a guided search tool as it will both try to guess what you were typing and give you suggestions as well. This is extremely powerful and really makes search easier for the user. It also adds a lot of value to advertisers as it should mean more qualified clicks on paid search results as the searches are better informed.

I’m actually really surprised this has come out of Yahoo first, I’ve been waiting for Google to implement something like this for a while now but for once Yahoo have the upper hand. Now all they need to do is sort out the problems with their paid search results (relevancy, gaming etc), fix their algorithms for natural search and improve the interface and they could become my search engine of choice!

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