Although developmental search services like Powerset and Hakia may one day rule the search market, for the moment, Google and Yahoo still dominate.
Surf Canyon is a new service that wants you to use it along with Google or Yahoo, offering users an easier way to instantly refine results. Google makes you change or add keywords in your query to refine results, which produces a fresh list. In fact, you may just want to refine some of the results you already have on the page.
Surf Canyon recognizes that Google may dominate search for years to come, despite the promises of natural language or semantic search. The most sensible strategy, then, is to utilize the technology the search giant has already built, and attempt to capture a fringe set of users who desire more functionality.
Other companies are trying this too, including Mahalo, with its sidebar (see coverage).
Using Surf Canyon is simple. You enter a term and get your standard 10 results. If any of those results look close to what you’re trying to find, you can hover your cursor over the result, or click a small button, to instantly get a re-targeted search, instead of having to type more keywords.
If, for instance, you were searching for this blog, you could hover over the first result (see example below) to bring up re-targeted results, in this case some past VentureBeat posts that were popular. If you then look at subsequent pages of results, Surf Canyon will also remix those, bringing forth pages related to what initially seemed interesting.
Though it may never draw significant attention, Surf Canyon could attract a small user base of people who, for whatever reason, prefer using this scroll-and-click targeting approach, as opposed to being forced to refine searches by changing keywords, as Google makes you do. By not burning through millions of dollars in an attempt to “reinvent the wheel,” as the newer search engines aspire to, Surf Canyon may be giving itself a chance of survival.
At the same time, it risks not differentiating enough to interest users, even if they find the search feature convenient. Google, for instance, offers a “Similar Results” button that appears similar. Google’s link requires navigating to an entirely new page, and Surf Canyon claims that Google only shows pages found through links, whereas their own method is to provide an entirely new search. However, users may not notice or understand the difference.
The company’s income will come from sponsored results, like other engines. Surf Canyon, based in Oakland, has three employees and has taken angel funding. To try the service, visit the homepage and click the email link to request an invitation.
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