By JESSICA MINTZ
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 3:35 PM
SEATTLE -- Yahoo Inc. is updating its search engine with a feature that attempts to answer Web surfers' questions before they even finish typing.
Search Direct, which is still in "beta" test mode, is Yahoo's answer to a similar Google Inc. feature called Instant Search. Both start making suggestions with the first keystroke, and Google and Yahoo both suggest a list of possible search terms that changes as people type.
But while Google immediately populates a search results page with blue links, Yahoo displays a box with instant information and answers for some types of searches at search.yahoo.com.
For example, start typing "Berlin." By the time you get to "berl," Yahoo has put together an information box with the current local time, things to do in the city, links to pages about hotels, restaurants and flights, a photo of a city landmark and a small map.
This trick doesn't work for all cities - search "Beijing," and Yahoo gives you a box with three links, two of which are for the official website of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Several city searches, including Seattle and New York, yield links to the local newspapers' sites.
Yahoo searches for the word "weather" and a ZIP code yield a three-day forecast. Search a brand name such as Nike or Bumble and Bumble, and a handful of product images appear with prices and star ratings if available. Clicking through takes you to a retailer's website.
Searching for "Obama" prompts links to top news stories. Searching for "Matthew McConaughey" gets links to his Wikipedia and IMDb pages.