Cooliris has just launched the newest version of its browser plug-in PicLens, allowing you to use the plug-in’s “fullscreen 3D” interface to explore more of the web through the PicLens Discovery feature, as well as new compatibility with Amazon.
PicLens can already be used to explore photos and videos on sites like Flickr and YouTube, as well as social networks like Facebook and search engines like Google Images. Instead of just clicking through picture after picture, or page after page of search results, PicLens users see a giant wall of images, which they can fly around to find content that’s interesting. And with PicLens Discovery, the company is creating its own destination site, rather than just providing a way to experience other sites. The service pulls content from around the web into different channels focused on topics like entertainment, sports and U.S. news.
There’s nothing particularly unique about the content, but by allowing you to navigate it with PicLens, the company has created a fun way to explore new stuff as it comes online — judging from a quick demo, PicLens Discovery brings a “channel surfing” experience to RSS feeds. Right now, the content is arranged in reverse-chronological order, so that users see the newest pictures and videos first, but the team says it will be tweaking the service to provide more personalized content depending on the articles, pictures and videos a user appears to find most interesting. I’ll be using PicLens Discovery myself, but with caution — it could turn into a real black hole of procrastination.
PicLens is also moving into online shopping with its Amazon compatibility, which the team describes as a form of online window shopping. Flying around the plug-in’s wall of images may not be quite as good as inspecting each product while you’re in the store, and it won’t show you any information that you couldn’t find on the site already. But using PicLens to shop is a lot more fun than going through a bunch of product descriptions — and in some cases more useful, since you may spot, say, the shoes you’re looking for more quickly.
Finally, the Cooliris team has made a small but crucial improvement to the user interface, making it possible for users to easily jump back-and-forth between PicLens and webpages without having to restart your PicLens search each time. This is an important feature, because it makes PicLens a more practical browsing tool, rather than just a cool toy.
Cooliris got some headlines last week when it snagged Shashi Seth, YouTube’s head of monetization, to be its chief revenue officer. Seth says this new release is a step forward for Cooliris’ business plan, too. The Amazon feature will bring in money for Cooliris as an Amazon affiliate; more importantly, it will help the startup gather data that it can use to launch other online shopping services. Cooliris is also ready to start experimenting with the advertising that Seth hinted at last week.
Cooliris raised a $3 million first round from Kleiner Perkins in 2007.