Yahoo's new search tool fixes one of the biggest problems with email

Marissa Mayer, yahoo, sv100 2015

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Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo attends 'China: Through The Looking Glass' Costume Institute Benefit Gala - Press Preview at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

Starting next week, Yahoo Mail is getting a beefed-up search feature that's better at helping its 255 million users dig through your email for the stuff you want, reports the New York Times.

It's super common for e-mail users, like me, to use their e-mail as a total online life archive. Photos, documents, coupons, whatever else I need, I just do a Gmail search and dig through messages dating back to 2007 until I find what I was looking for.

The new Yahoo Mail search is designed with that in mind. If you search for "Photos from Disneyland," its algorithm will apparently go to work and just display an impromptu photo gallery culled from your messages.
It can also help you narrow a search, so that if you're looking for your American Airlines boarding pass, it won't also show you every marketing e-mail you've ever gotten from them. Another potential use is for finding coupons from a store while you're at that store, sifting through your unopened promo email.

Google, the world's No.1 Internet search company, has tried to tackle this problem from a different direction. The company takes a more proactive approach with tools like the Inbox app and Google Now, which automatically surface information inside of emails that it thinks are relevant based on contex such as geographic location and time of day. But Google's actual email search function works mostly the same as it has for the last almost-decade.

For Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, a former Google executive who for years oversaw the design of Google's search engine, the focus on email search is a natural move. Mayer recently amended Yahoo's search partnership with Microsoft, giving Yahoo new freedom to develop search offerings.

The technology that Yahoo is employing here will also go into other products like Fantasy Sports and the new Livetext app, per that report. It can also be used for smarter, more personal search.

It's an important move for Yahoo, which has spent most of the last decade allowing Google to leapfrog it in terms of search innovation. Now let's see how the new email search tool works in real life.

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