"Desktop search is a really hard and interesting problem," Mayer said at the JPMorgan tech, media and telecom conference in Boston. "You crawl a trillion URL's and people need to have results that are ordered right. On the phone, you don't necessarily need a trillion URL's. People look at their phone and they're focused on doing things."
Since becoming Yahoo! CEO in July 2012, Mayer has focused on rebuilding the core business--search and display. Search is seemingly the most promising venture because of Yahoo!'s size and scale. The company now has more than one billion users worldwide and more than 600 million using Yahoo!'s mobile products.
Mayer noted that search on mobile devices is much more personal and local than it is on desktop, which is much different than just providing links to a search query. Mayer provided the example of looking for restaurants in Boston and being able to take action, such as looking at reviews and making a reservation, as opposed to just looking at a list of five pages of different restaurants.
Yahoo!, which is thought to be gunning for becoming the default search engine on Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) iOS Safari web browser (Google (GOOG - Get Report) (GOOGL - Get Report) is the current default), has been working on expanding its partnerships for search to build up its offerings and provide users with a better experience.
The company is working on building its knowledge graph, having partnered with Yelp (YELP - Get Report) for local restaurant reviews and ratings. The company also launched a feature last week for helping answer different search queries and has been partnering with other companies to provide different results.
"Overall, I'm very happy with the competitive dynamic this produces," Mayer said.
In the past, Mayer and Yahoo! have hinted they want to provide a search feature, similar to Apple's Siri or Google Now, that would be a voice assistant. Mayer continued to highlight that, noting there had been a lot of breakthroughs with voice recognition and entity understanding.
"It's much more about personal assistants and how do you take the apps on your phone and accomplish something and make search as useful on the phone as it has been on the web," Mayer stated.