Today Yahoo have announced “Axis” – an enhanced way to browse and search the web. For Yahoo this means the chance to upstage your “traditional” search engines like Google and for users it’s a chance to get search results presented in a completely new way. On your laptop/desktop it’s a plug-in for your usual browser. While on your mobile/tablet it’s a standalone app that is in effect its own browser/search engine.
When you think about it all today’s search engines have become pretty similar. They present search results in an ordered text list with the “most relevant” result at the top of the list. Each page typically has 10 natural search results (blue, green & black text on a white background) and to get deeper into the results you journey to the next page (though few people do, of course). And Google has built its business surrounding these natural search results with paid ads.
So, what’s different about Yahoo Axis? Why could it be a winner? On first acquaintance Yahoo has completely reconsidered how people might want their search results presented. The web’s becoming an ever more graphical environment. The arrival of tablets and the obvious desire of people to “swipe” their way around the web has meant Yahoo has opted for a graphics-orientated results stream. On a tablet the results are scrolled from right to left – no longer are there simple pages of results. The results are displayed as thumbnails of the sites, so the visual appeal of those sites is likely to be a very important factor in determining the probability of a clickthrough. It is possible that being no.1 in the results will no longer be as important as what you look like!
The laptop browser plugin functions slightly differently to the tablet/mobile app – it sits at the bottom of the host browser ready for action and springs to life quickly when required. Results are shown in a similar way to the tablet app with simple left-right scrolling using your mouse. If you have a standard Yahoo account you can get Yahoo to synchronise your Axis viewing experience across all your devices. A nice touch, but not sure how useful this will be in reality.
In summary Yahoo Axis looks like a really fresh way of presenting search results and exploring what the web has to offer. In many ways it opens up the real estate again to give more websites a chance of being found. It could undermine Google’s stranglehold on search if people are gripped by the Axis proposition. It’s not obvious yet how Yahoo will monetise the results, but you can be sure that they’ll be working on this. It’ll be fascinating to see how Axis is taken up, and how it mights stir up further innovation in this arena.