Yahoo's new search browser a visual treat; Will Google learn a trick or two

24 May, 2012

Digital media company Yahoo has come up with a new search browser called Yahoo Axis that allows users to search for information and get 'visual' results (as they type) without leaving the page they are on. It also integrates with desktop browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Apple Safari (as a plug-in) and automatically connects the user's online experiences across multiple devices (but users have to be signed in to their Yahoo ids on those devices for this feature to work).

As of now, Axis is available for download as a desktop plug-in for PCs (for HTML5-enabled browsers) and as a mobile browser for Apple's iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad).

"Our 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," said Shashi Seth, senior VP, connections, Yahoo Inc.

He also mentioned that with Axis, the company has re-defined and re-architected the search and browse experience from the ground up, and we must say we are inclined to agree. Here's why.

End of the 'Back' button

On PCs, the search browser is always present in the form of a small search box in the lower left corner of the browser window while the user in browsing the Web. When you type a search, the box pops-up and shows you visual results (see the picture below) instead of the traditional text that is shown by popular search engines like Google and Bing. Axis also auto-completes searches and even if you don't type a search, it still shows you results on what's trending on the Web.

But the best part is even when you select one of the results and are redirected to that particular page, you can still preview all the search results, without having to leave the page you're on.

This also solves the problem of using the 'back button' every time you want to view the search results (which is the case with other search engines).

Connected across devices

The search browser also enables users to move seamlessly across devices, which basically means that even if you start searching for something on your computer and want to continue the search on other devices (like Tablets or mobile phones); you can do that with Axis.

Users have to sign-in with their existing Yahoo ids to use this feature and once signed-in, Axis stores browser details such as bookmarks and the last page visited. Users can sign-out if they want to stop sharing across devices.

Personalised home page

After signing in, users also get a customizable home page that enables direct access to the user's favourite sites, saved articles, bookmarks, etc. It also contains the most recently visited sites and lets the user to pick-up where they left with a 'continue from device' option.

Mobile browser

Yahoo Axis works as a stand-alone mobile browser app on Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices and it has a few extra features for them that include; swipe to get from one search result to the next; a bar that combines the search box and address bars into one; and sharing- for posting any pages to Twitter or Pinterest.

We tried downloading the app from the iTunes store to give it a try but a message pops up that says the app is not available in the Indian version of the iTunes store.

How it compares with Google's search engine

The most important (also the most noticeable) difference between Yahoo Axis and Google search is the visual angle that Yahoo! has brought in. After all, who wouldn't prefer to see visual previews of sites/pages being searched instead of the thin blue lines that Google search provides as of now. And the fact that users can continue their search and even access bookmarks on multiple devices is way cooler than what Google currently offers. Also, Yahoo Axis is omnipresent while browsing the Web, although the search box popping up every time you accidently click on it can be a little annoying for some users.

It's true that the search is nowhere as extensive, detailed and comprehensive as Google (don't worry, you are still the king), but there is no denying the fact that the search giant should take a tip or two from Yahoo.

Also, we must say that the company has out-done itself since this is definitely a very interesting launch. We personally loved the visual results option since it lets you view the site or page without having to click on it. The way the images are displayed when you search for them is also very sleek. And the fact that the search is always there means we don't have to go back and forth every time we want to access a different result.

This is what we feel, but do share your comments on the same.