Kara Swisher

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Yahoo Search Gone Wild?

Did Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang have an extra bowl of Wheaties recently?

If so, it could be a very good thing.

In what is most definitely much more than a glimmer of innovative spark for Yahoo (YHOO), the company has opened up its search technology to allow anyone to build their own search engine.

BoomTown even likes the aggressive name of the service, which is BOSS, or Build Your Own Search Service. It debuted last night in public beta.

The project is part of Yahoo’s efforts to open its technology to third-party developers, with the hope of extending its reach further.

Yahoo has made several initiatives in the open arena recently, including SearchMonkey, which lets outside developers add more information to Yahoo search results.

But BOSS represents a quantum level from that largely cosmetic offering, by letting programmers do just about anything with Yahoo search results.

While the technology is free and will not be Yahoo-branded, Yahoo will require that those who use it also use Yahoo’s search advertising, revenues in which partners will eventually share.

Yahoo hopes it can hold onto its slipping search share through, well, sharing of its technology, in essence, by letting 1,000 search engines bloom that are all powered by Yahoo.

Both Yahoo, as well as Microsoft (MSFT), have been trying with no luck to hold onto their share of the search market in the face of search juggernaut Google (GOOG).

And the attraction for partners would be to not have to bear the cost of creating a search engine, while at the same time getting to have a customized one.

“What this represents is a deletion of the fundamental barrier to search,” said Prabhakar Raghavan, chief strategist for Yahoo Search. “We are removing that barrier for entry and you don’t have to replicate our efforts.”

Added Raghavan: “Anybody with a good dea will be able to get going without that upfront cost.”