Yahoo has launched a new browser for smart phones and browser plug-in for desktops and notebooks called Axis. The company has been struggling to bring itself back from the brink (and largely succeeding lately) and this is one more step towards controlling the Yahoo experience. This single release may be the best thing they've done in years.
Axis is available for iPad, iPhone, and will come soon to Android. It's also available as a plug-in for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. The idea for the user is to eliminate the middle man in search: instead of searching and then being presented with a list of links, you get presented with thumbnails of result sites for a more intuitive experience.
In practice, it works really well. It sounds, when you read about it, to be just a gimmick, but when you actually use it, you find yourself finding the results you're after much faster because, surprise surprise, we read slower than we intake graphical presentations. I'll explain this more in a moment.
=== What Axis Does for Yahoo
Before we talk more about the browser and why you should try it, let's talk about why Yahoo, of all the players in the search game, were the ones to release this. Their search, after all, is now largely controlled by Microsoft's Bing.
Yahoo has been floundering for a long time and has only recently begun to bring itself back into some kind of relevance. Although it would appear that this new style of search undermines Yahoo's top income stream, that being ads on search results pages, it also has the potential to change the way we view search in a fundamental way.
It also puts Yahoo in a place where it's possible the company could become the go-to source for many people's searches - even if they're not actually using Yahoo/Bing to do it. The way the browser (or plug-in) works is to sidestep the usual search process and instead put it intuitively into the browser itself. That will mean more users using a Yahoo product and thus more chances for the company to figure out how to sell advertising or otherwise capitalize on those hits and eyeballs.
=== Back to the User and What Axis Does for You
Axis is itself an extremely simple, but useful tool. Up to now, we've largely become accustomed to searching and being presented with a list of results on a page that probably has blurbs from the sites in question and allows us to read through to see if they're relevant before clicking. That takes a lot of time and, frankly, most of the time we're just looking to see if the site appears legitimate, not whether it's useful. 100 words or less from the result landing page is not likely enough to tell you anything more than whether or not the site is a scam.
With Yahoo's Axis, you get graphical thumbnails of the sites that come through the results instead of that textual list of links. This makes weeding out scam sites very, very easy and speeds up the process of looking for and clicking a result. It speeds it up a lot.
If you're a Google user, you've no doubt seen the pop up thumbnails that come when you hover your mouse over a search result. Yahoo's system bypasses the need to hover and just shows those thumbnails outright. Once you use it, you'll love it.
PS. Some parts of the experience don't work yet for Canadians ... like downloading the iPhone app, it's only available on the US iTunes at the time of writing.