While Google may be experiencing something of a public opinion backlash, Yahoo’s reputation among the tech crowd seems headed in the other direction, at least for now. The company’s willingness to reach out to the developer community, it’s embrace of RSS, its support of Media RSS and its purchase of the uber-hip photo sharing site Flickr all seem to have improved the company’s standing among the Internet geek crowd.

Tonight, Yahoo boosts its Net cred further, announcing a new search site that’s just for finding Web content with Creative Commons licenses. Created by Stanford prof Larry Lessig, Creative Commons is an alternative licensing scheme to copyright that promotes creative re-use of media. (Lessig blogs about the new search site on the Yahoo search blog.)

For all we know, the CC search site required nothing more than a trivial tweak of the existing Yahoo search engine. Regardless, it sends a message to the Net-influencer crowd that it’s paying attention.

Marc Canter, never afraid to throw rhetorical firebombs at big companies that don’t “get it,” said he thinks Yahoo has been paying close attention to the emerging grassroots media movement and intends to be a player.

Canter views Yahoo as a “next generation studio” that can facilitate the creation and distribution of third-party content, without actually producing any itself.

“I think it started with (the) Web 2.0 (conference), when (Yahoo execs) Dan Rosensweig and Jerry Yang admitted they can’t control their users’ content,” Canter said. “I think they’ve been listening. They’ve been looking at the world evolve and listening.”

Of course, it’s perilous to read too much into these things. The sometimes irascible tech crowd is inherently skeptical of big company motives. Love affairs wane quickly. But for now, Yahoo’s star seems to be rising.

PS: Speaking of Canter, look for our story in the Merc tomorrow about the new site he helped launched this week, Ourmedia.

UPDATE: Story link is here.

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