The Onion, April 7, 2004 | Issue 40•14
SUNNYVALE, CA—Hoping it will push them to the top of an increasingly competitive market, Internet portal Yahoo has added soul-search capabilities to its expanding line of search tools, company executives announced Monday.
"Capable of navigating the billions of thoughts, experiences, and emotions that make up the human psyche, the new Yahoo soul-search engine helps users find what's deep inside them quickly and easily," Yahoo CEO Terry Semel said. "All those long, difficult nights of pondering your place in this world are a thing of the past."
Yahoo's main competitor recently introduced two new advanced search functions: Google Local, which highlights search results from a specific geographic area, and Google Personalized Search, which allows users to create a profile of their interests to influence search results. But Semel called Yahoo's new search function "vastly more precise."
"As the amount of information on the web increases, individuals want a search engine to provide them with results that are personally meaningful," Semel said. "Enter the Yahoo Soul Search—a powerful new tool that reveals what's deep inside your heart, using the user-friendly interface already familiar to Yahoo fans."
In the past, a soul search was a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, Semel said.
"A soul search often required backpacking trips across Europe, disastrous long-term relationships with incompatible lovers, and years of expensive therapy," Semel said. "Worse, the search process often included depression, lowered self-worth, and intense doubt."
Semel called the old way of seeking clarity "a logistical nightmare."
"Each question you asked yourself seemed to have a thousand possible answers," Semel said. "That's why we designed a way to order returns by relevance and separate them into categories like 'religion' and 'sexuality.' After using the Yahoo soul-search engine, conducting the self-examination process without a computer will seem as ridiculous as doing accounting in old-fashioned ledger books."
The new search function is even customizable. Users can set their search to plumb their souls at varying depths, to make shallow discoveries or life-changing ones. They can also adjust their security preferences to protect themselves from the dangers of baring their naked souls to the world, and parental controls can be enabled in order to prevent children from looking inside themselves.
The new service is also hot-linked to the pre-existing Yahoo network—instantly leading the soul-searcher to pertinent information on HotJobs, Yahoo! Shopping, and Yahoo! Travel—making it possible for users to reconfigure their entire lives with one easy soul search.
Although soul searching online personal ads is not presently an option, Yahoo is developing a search engine which will allow its estimated 300 million users to find their one true soulmate.
Semel admits that the soul, while eminently searchable, is far from easy to navigate. There are still dangers in the form of self-deception, the soul-to-soul transmittable "D-spair" virus, and the numerous pop-up ads offering quick-fix solutions to the user's problems.
"There are bound to be some bugs, but we're not too worried," Semel said. "We at Yahoo have a lot of experience in helping people navigate an environment full of falsehoods, random useless information, and truly horrifying pornography. I don't think the human soul will hold any real surprises for us."
Early reviews from consumers have been overwhelmingly positive.
"I was skeptical, I'll admit," said former Boston-area investment banker Royce Creighton. "But after two minutes on Yahoo Soul Search, I found that being born into a family of bankers didn't mean I had to be a banker. Half an hour of advanced soul-searching helped me find a buyer for my house, an alpaca farm for sale in Wyoming, and a highly recommended acupuncturist in Cheyenne. I've never been happier... and I found all this inside myself through Yahoo!"