cooliris.jpgSilicon Valley start-up Cooliris has released an improved version of a feature that lets you preview pages being linked to.

The idea behind it is to save you from having to click through.

There were drawbacks to Cooliris’ initial version, released last year: First, the preview pop-ups were too small. This time, they are much larger and you can do more with them.

This is good for power surfers: Clicking through can be a waste of time, because if it’s a page you don’t want, you have to click the back arrow to get back to where you were, or close the window when you’re done.

The company says nearly two million people downloaded the original browser plug-in, even if it didn’t get much buzz. Keep in mind, this is a concept still in trial: Browster, a venture-backed company that offered something similar, recently folded. Meanwhile, Snap came along and offered a feature that did very well. Snap doesn’t require you to download anything. Rather, Web site owners integrate it into their site, and it provides an automatic pop up for readers. It has become extremely popular.

Snap’s popularity is somewhat perplexing, however. Readers don’t see much in its tiny pop-up images. We ascribe its widespread adoption to the “eye-candy” effect: It livens up a site, offering no practical use. Like cuff-links on a shirt, or ties.

See the image below of a side-by-side comparison of Cooliris’ preview and Snap’s.

cooliris-comparsion.jpg

Once Cooliris’ previews are open (you simply mouse over a blue icon next to a link), you can share it with friends. You rightclick, select “share” and Cooliris lets you email it.

It offers other features. With image thumbnails, you mouse over an image, and it pops up.

More significantly, Cooliris lets you stack away the previews on the right side of your screen for later reading. You do this by right-clicking and selecting “add to stacks” See image below. This is useful for researchers like ourselves, who do lots of surfing and don’t always want to drill down immediately by clicking. Having a place to put pages temporarily also gives you time to decide how to bookmark pages. Cooliris plans to introduce more management features for the stacks, such as letting you share them too.

The Firefox version of the plug-in is more advanced than the Safari and IE versions.

cooliris-stacks.jpg

Finally, you can change settings for things like the preview’s window size, where on your screen the preview opens, and for locking previews open even when you mouse away.

Cooliris is the Palo Alto company that released the PicLens feature for full-screen image viewing, something we first wrote about two weeks ago. It has no venture backing.

Chief exec Soujanya Bhumkar said that, like PicLens, the goal is to maximize distribution of Previews/Stacks, before trying to make money.

The video below provides a demo (this is Flash, so RSS readers will have to go the VentureBeat site to see this)