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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Yahoo's Shiny New Browser

Story first appeared in USA Today.

Things haven't exactly gone swimmingly for Yahoo, with the recent unceremonious departure of the previous CEO just the latest string of nasty news. But the beleaguered Internet company hopes consumers will focus on new product offerings rather than the machinations in and around the executive suite. On Wednesday night Yahoo unveiled Yahoo! Axis, a slick new mobile browser and desktop browser plug-in that lets you view visual search thumbnails of webpages, without leaving the page you're on.

The new "search browser" as the company coins it, is available as a free download in Apple's App Store, and as a free plug-in for versions of Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and the Chrome Web browsers. An Android version comes later.

When you enter a search from within the browser, you'll see visual previews of up to 25 search results that appear in small boxes . If you're on the iPad, you can swipe down from near the top of the screen to reveal thumbnails, then swipe left or right to move from one search result to the next, tapping the image when you want the page to take over the entire screen. On a computer you can click for the next search result.

Yahoo says that it can serve up visual thumbnails for about 80% of the pages you might come across in a search. In the absence of such as a visual, you'll see a thumbnail-sized box filled with text.

As you'd expect, Yahoo lets you customize a home page by logging in with your Yahoo ID. But Yahoo also gives you the option to sign in with your Facebook or Google credentials.

If you do log in, your search isn't tethered to any one machine. So if you search to plan a vacation, buy a car or whatever from one device, your computer at work, say, you can resume from where you left off on the iPhone as you ride home or consult your PC back home.

The search strategy is predicated on two core beliefs—one, that people want answers, not links and two, that consumer-facing search is ripe for innovative disruption, especially on the front-end. With Axis, Yahoo has re-defined and re-architected the search and browse experience from the ground up.

Axis adheres to the latest open web standards such as HTML5, and was built on a mobile development platform called Yahoo! Cocktails.

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