Yahoo is planning a virtual assistant service in the vein of Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana, according to sources speaking to Business Insider.


The service will offer search results, contextual information, important updates and located-based news. Yahoo is working alongside the advertising team on the project—known internally as Index—meaning it will most likely contain ads.

Yahoo is putting all of its own services like weather, mail, sports updates and search into the virtual assistant, allowing it to be more powerful without outsourcing searches to other platforms, like Apple has to do with Bing search.

It plans to make the virtual assistant smarter than others by tapping into Yahoo Mail and understanding the context of a question better. CEO Marissa Mayer put forward an example of JFK, but instead of searching for the President, it would search for the airport, because an email receipt from JFK airport was sent to the email address recently.

This sort of contextual information might be invaluable for people that want to know a lot of things, but when they search, it comes up the wrong subject.

Even though Yahoo has millions of search and mail users, it is hard to pinpoint how Yahoo plans to offer the virtual assistant on Android and iOS, since it will not be allowed the same deep integration with the platform that Google Now and Siri offer.

Yahoo plans to make this a mobile-only application. Several ex-Yahoo executives claim this is a terrible idea and will likely cost the company $500 million per year. Execs claim Yahoo should send all traffic to Google, earning them a nice $1 billion per year in profit from such a deal.

Doesn’t look like that is going to happen anytime soon though, Mayer is clear on making Yahoo great again, and outsourcing all search traffic to Google is a surefire way to make the company irrelevant, like it has been for the past 10 years.

Source: [Business Insider]