Yahoo! today unveiled a significantly updated version of its online search engine in a bid to remain competitive with its increasingly dominant foe, Google. The new Yahoo! Search, previously code-named Panama, introduces features such as Universal Search, which aggregates different content types into search results. This is a significant step forward, but it's also one that other search providers such as Google and Microsoft have already taken.

"We'll chip away \[at Google's lead\]," Yahoo! Senior Vice President Vish Makhijani said. "We have our eye on being number one in search." Yahoo!, currently, is the number two provider of Internet search, behind Google but well ahead of Microsoft. The problem for Yahoo!, of course, is that Google continues to grow its share of the market. In August, Google's share of US Internet search market jumped by more than 30 percent year-over-year to 53.6 percent. Yahoo!, by comparison, was up 9 percent to 20 percent share.

Internet search is important because it drives eyeballs and thus advertising revenue. And that's the one area where Google's multipronged approach has really paid off. But Google is seen as an innovator by users because of the multitude of products and services it currently offers, and Yahoo! hopes that this new search engine will reestablish its brand as that of a fast-moving innovator as well.

The improvements to Yahoo Search are somewhat impressive. The service now sports an attractive drop-down box that appears as you type, offering spelling fixes and suggestions based on what you're typing. Search results pages include embedded video, photos from Yahoo!'s extensive Flickr collection, and results that are customized for specific types of searches, such as those for celebrities, musical artists, and news.

Yahoo!'s moves follow a major update to Microsoft's Live.com search engine, which was revved last week to include a search index that has quadrupled in size, improved performance, a new look and feel, and content-specific improvements related to entertainment, shopping, local search, video, and health.