Internet users are starting to "shift away" from traditional search and are instead conducting queries for highly specific items, or "structured objects", according to a new white paper from Yahoo! Labs.

Scientists Ravi Kumar and Andrew Tomkins launched the document, which could point to future trends for online marketing services, at the WWW 2010 conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Using data on over 50 million pageviews from the Yahoo! Toolbar, they found that users spent 21.4 per cent of their time online conducting searches. This included web and multimedia searches, as well as queries for items of e-commerce sites like eBay and Amazon.com.

Around nine per cent of all pageviews resulted from search entries. In turn, these made up 8.9 per cent and 3.5 per cent of direct and indirect referrals.

Furthermore, the white paper said that search activity led to 20 per cent of checkout pageviews.

"The future of search will include increasing focus on gathering, understanding and, when appropriate, serving structured information," Mr Kumar and Mr Tomkins concluded.

Yahoo! Labs is the search engine’s centre for scientific research, which is responsible for developing the technology that powers its new products.

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