At Yandex we’ve long been striving to tailor search results especially for every individual user – and we can already do it pretty well.
Our Personalised Search fetches results and delivers search suggestions individually for each user based on the many things we know about them – including their geographical location, language preferences, search history and clicks in search results. The user's search history tells the search engine what may be currently relevant for this particular user, and whether he or she would appreciate getting search results in English, for instance. Our MatrixNet machine-learning algorithms allow our search engine to look at users as live, multi-faceted human beings: gender, age, sphere of activity and domestic status are just some of the qualities it knows how to consider when delivering personalised search results and suggestions.
Well, naturally we couldn’t stop there, and we started thinking about how to take this great idea one step further. Once we’d developed personalised search, another idea arose: if we can personalise search results, why not personalise the whole internet? Introducing …. (drum roll, please) …. Atom!
Atom is one of Yandex’s new technology concepts. It allows any web resource to be adapted (or personalised) for nearly any person, even if they have not visited that web resource before but have a search history at Yandex.
For example, a site selling package tours is more likely to satisfy a user (and make a sale) if its main page only shows those tours that are likely to be of most interest to that user, based on his or her past behavior online. If a site can work out how to reconfigure its front page or catalogue according to the interests of any given person – and deliver what’s needed right at the start -- then it follows that the person will return to the site again and again.
How does it all work? We “talk” to a site through an API, telling the site what to show, in what order, in what priority, for each individual. We’d like to emphasise that we don’t give third-party sites any private information about the user – none of their cookies, nor their search history. We process all that information ourselves.
At present Atom exists on the level of a concept that we will be developing over the next few years together with the internet community. It’s an ambitious plan, which will work only if it gets the support of everybody – users, web site owners, web masters.
And who wins? First of all – users, who will get only relevant and useful information on their PC or tablet or smartphone screen. Imagine a newswire website where all new items are interesting for everybody. Nothing to be left unread. Or an e-commerce service delivering not only recommendations based on their own statistics, but considering much more extensive behaviour of a user in the internet. A personal internet – for each, their own – is coming. That would be the huge shift in upcoming years or even decades. Stay tuned!