The latest improvements, introduced Thursday, are in line with the web portal's focus on movies, celebrities and professionally created content. Yahoo's leanings toward entertainment are how it hopes to differentiate itself from other search engines, particularly market leader Google.
Yahoo's direction with the enhancements is evident in the addition of "intelligent shortcuts" for movies, musical artists, celebrities and news topics. The feature, located at the top of results, gives users the option of viewing results of specific categories, such as images, articles, videos, tweets, event listings and ratings. Yahoo also puts the purchase option front and center by providing links to purchase movie and concert tickets while searching.
Other new features include the introduction of what Yahoo says is the first of a series of "quick apps" for search. The new app lets Netflix subscribers add DVDs to their queue on the video subscription service without leaving Yahoo search. Netflix members also can watch movies and TV shows from Netflix's streaming video service.
Yahoo also is tying search results closer to social networks. User can find and view public photo albums and individual pictures from friends on Facebook and photo-sharing site Flickr.
Finally, Yahoo has released new versions of its search apps for the Apple iPhone and smartphones running Google's Android operating system. Yahoo says the apps deliver results faster and are better equipped to take advantage of the smartphone's multimedia capabilities in displaying rich content on entertainment, finance and local topics.
The new features are available in the U.S. Yahoo plans to start rolling them out worldwide next year.
While Yahoo focuses on the interface layer, under the covers is Microsoft's search engine. Microsoft is under contract to power search for Yahoo for 10 years, starting in August. The companies announced the pact in July 2009.
The deal has given Microsoft a major boost in the market. In August, the company's Bing search engine surpassed Yahoo to become the nation's second largest behind Google, according to market watcher Nielsen. Yahoo went live with Microsoft search Aug. 24.