The good folks from Yahoo! unveiled their new open search platform Yahoo! SearchMonkey, at a developer launch party today at their Sunnyvale headquarters. In some ways, the SearchMonkey platform is revolutionary and a major step forward in search, allowing publishers to participate directly in improving the quality of their own information presented on the Yahoo! search results page (this is also implicitly a push for the bottom-up approach to the Semantic Web, which most industry observers have given up on in favor of a top-down approach). The platform also lets publishers and third-party developers build applications aimed at improving the search experience. Finally, and most important, if enough publishers and app developers participate in the program, it promises to improve the quality of search results for end users.
At the simplest level, you can think of SearchMonkey as a community-powered set of rich information boxes (similar to the Google OneBox) that appear on the Yahoo! search results page. Publishers can provide this rich data to the Yahoo! search index in a variety of ways: through structured data feeds (RSS), through RDF or Microformat markup on web pages, or through simple page extraction. The "Information Bar" shows up underneath the main search results. The Yahoo! search team has also provided tools to enable developers to build search-based applications very simply and easily.