Magazine article Online

SearchMash

Magazine article Online

SearchMash

Article excerpt

All of the major search engines have beta sites where they test out new interfaces, new features, and sometimes entirely new services. It took Google 3 years to officially move Google News from "beta" to mainstream-long after everyone and their mother canceled their newspaper subscriptions and relied on Google's automated editor to decide what's news.

Some of the beta sites announce what company owns the site: Ask.com's Ask X and Yahoo!'s Livesearch (http://livesearch.alltheWeb.com), for example. But Google and Microsoft are a bit more coy. Microsoft's Ms. Dewey (www .msdewey.com) was released as a viral marketing campaign for MSN Live Search. And in an even more below-the-radar launch, Google is testing a new user interface with SearchMash (www.searchmash.com ).

It's not branded with Google's name, but SearchMash shows its pedigree with its front page-lots of white space and a simple search box. For most searches, your results are identical to those run on the main Google site-the same number of results and the same relevance ranking. What distinguishes SearchMash is what Google has done to your experience of those results.

The first difference is in the layout of the search results page in SearchMash. On the left side of the screen is the usual list of retrieved Web pages, sorted by Google's special sauce. However, SearchMash has a much less cluttered display of the pages; there are no links to Cached or Similar Pages, and the URL displayed is not the complete address but only the domain. For example, a search on stem cell research retrieved a specific CNN report, but the search results page simply lists CNN.com as the URL. But here's an interesting trick: If you click that domain link, SearchMash runs a search for stem cell research+site:www.cnn.com. Yes, with one click you can run a site: search with your search terms.

I find this to be an interesting twist. The search results page looks less useful to professional researchers, since you only see one page per site and no full URL. But clicking on a URL actually gives you richer search results by displaying all relevant pages from a site, rather than just the two that Google normally shows.

One of the features I've always liked about MSN Live's image search is its "smart scroll." You never get to the bottom of the search results; scroll down, and more images appear at the bottom of the screen. It's a brilliant way to get over the common problem of not looking beyond the first page of results: Never let searchers get to the end of the page! …

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