Yahoo Axis: A Better Web Browser?

Category: Browsers

If you've heard about Axis, but find it confusing, join the club. Is it a browser, or just an add-on for your Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome browser? Will it replace your favorite search engine, or fundamentally change the way you search and browse the Web? Read on to learn more about Yahoo Axis...

What is Yahoo Axis?

When I hear the word "axis" two things come to mind. The first is unpleasant memories of quadratic equations from college math classes. The second is the alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan during World War II. Fortunately, Yahoo's latest offering has nothing to do with either.

On May 23, 2012 Yahoo launched a product named Axis that, in the company's words, "redefines what it means to search and browse the Web." Axis may do that, but I'm not sure it will help Yahoo or most users.

Axis takes two forms. On the desktop, it's a plugin for Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome browsers. For the iPhone or iPad, there is an Axis browser app. Axis for Android is promised in the future.

On desktop or mobile device, Axis replaces the traditional list of text link search results with thumbnails of the Web pages identified by a search. The small images are decidedly low-resolution and blurry. It's hard to imagine how a user can read them to see which page to pursue. But on touch-screen devices, thumbnails are easier and more fun to slide around and tap.Yahoo Axis browser

If you sign into Axis using your Yahoo, Facebook, or Google credentials, your Axis search results will be saved to a server somewhere, so you can switch devices and pick up your search where you left off. I can see that being handy for those cases where you've done a web search on your smartphone, and the pages you found are just not easily viewable on the tiny screen. Axis lets you jump over to the desktop, and resume your search on the big screen. Or on the flip side, you might do some quick research on your laptop before leaving the house, and then pick up the trail again on your mobile device.

Can Axis Read Your Mind?

Axis also does "predictive search," meaning it starts displaying results while you're still typing in a query. Yes, Google already does that. But the experience is a bit different with Axis. As you enter your search with Axis, you'll see a series of website thumbnails. Google's instant search capability is similar, but it displays text-based search results, images that match your search, and the "knowledge graph" filled with facts and figures on the right side of the search results. (See also Is Google's Knowledge Graph Good or Evil?)

Try this yourself on both Axis and Google: Start a new search, enter "mado" (without the quotes). Both search results will assume you're interested in Madonna, the performer. But which one gives you more useful information? For me, it's Google. Oh, and did you know that you can place the mouse over any Google search result, then click on the ">>" that appears, to get a large preview of the web page without clicking into it? For my money, "large preview" beats "small thumbnail".

I installed the Axis extension on my desktop Chrome browser, and Chrome warned me that it would be able to access my data on all websites, my tabs and browsing history, as well as the list of other installed apps, extensions and themes. So clearly, Axis is "watching" all the time, and not just when you do a web search. And the lack of any link to a privacy policy is a bit disturbing as well. What will Yahoo do with "my data on all websites"? Oh, and Axis changed by browser start page without asking. Grrrr.

Thumbnails and device syncing seem to be what "redefines what it means to search and browse the Web" in Yahoo's mind. There really isn't much else that stands out about Axis. Thumbnails aren't very useful, in my opinion, and syncing features are already available in the mobile versions of Chrome and Safari. Axis makes me yawn.

To makes matters worse, Yahoo launched Axis for Chrome with a major security vulnerability. The Chrome extension's "private key" certificate file can be read easily from the source code. With that certificate, a programmer could write malware that pretended to be from Yahoo. The company quickly fixed that hole, but its existence was a huge embarrassment.

Overall, Axis seems like a positive thing for touch-screen mobile devices, although not a major breakthrough. It seems rather pointless for desktop users.

Your thoughts on Yahoo's Axis are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Yahoo Axis: A Better Web Browser?"

Posted by:

Agman320
29 May 2012

I understand being able to start watching a movie in one room and want to continue in another but this is way over the top. It is another example of someone recording more about you and your interests than you ever really wanted them to know. Next step -- after they have connected enough -- is to assume they know you well enough to build a news feed for you, order subscriptions, renew products and completely remove any need to think. While this may be a marketer's dream, it will turn out to be a consumer nightmare. Kill your cookies regularly and maintain some semblance of privacy and individuality or pay the price later on


Posted by:

kurmat
29 May 2012

I use Bing for the aerial view on maps. I'm not sure if Bing Rewards will ever pay off for me.


Posted by:

Carl
29 May 2012

Although I like My Yahoo!, I wouldn't touch "Axis" with a 50 foot Flagpole ! ( But..maybe with a 50 foot "bangalore torpedo".....)


Posted by:

Dave Moran
29 May 2012

For those of us with limited bandwidth I would not want the icons, I am limited to 250MB per day due to satellite limitations.


Posted by:

Cindy
29 May 2012

I tried AXIS, but removed it in less than an hour, it made my laptop slow and I didn't like it. Just using yahoo for email only.


Posted by:

rich
29 May 2012

Recently Yahoo announced a new privacy policy that would apply to my Yahoo Groups account next time I used it.

I took the trouble to actually read through the whole policy and immediately abandoned the account. I have considered it ample reason to avoid dealing with Yahoo since. Draw your own conclusions.


Posted by:

snert
29 May 2012

Something else we don't need and don't want.


Posted by:

Bob Deloyd
30 May 2012

I like Yahoo, I use it for news, but I don't like when a program or app changes something without asking. I'll check this Axis out before I install it on any tablet I have. It ain't going on any desktop of mine...


Posted by:

Ari
30 May 2012

Once again very timely article. Thank you for providing information about Axis.

Recently I had noticed on Firefox browser whenever I open Yahoo and search there is an Axis tool bar(should I say tool bar?) at the bottom which covers computer screen.

I do not like to install any tool bar without my consent, therefore, this all of sudden appearance is painful. I am trying to get rid of it but so far no success.

I wonder if there is a way to stop this Axis appearing on browser?


Posted by:

Harry Homan
30 May 2012

I switched from Yahoo to Hotmail some time ago, as I was getting inundated with spam. Bing + Hotmail works great for me + they're Microsoft, so updates are a cinch.


Posted by:

Eddie
30 May 2012

Bob, I would be glad to download Axis and try it and give report, but from what you said, it's going to be worse than downloading most apps about wanting my personal info. "Yahoo, no thanks. You basically wasted your time with that program." :-)


Posted by:

Matthew Graczyk
31 May 2012

Yahoo!'s new Axis browser is one of the most innovative evolutions in the browser market. It isn't a contender for the desktop market but shines in iOS, where the Axis app is WAY faster/better than Safari for iPhones and iPads. It's bookmarking functionality doesn't compare to iCrumz.com but a valiant effort!


Posted by:

Joseph
11 Jun 2012

I have been using the axis plugin and it is annoying. On some sites, axis gets in the way of certain commands like not being able to to pause groove shark at the bottom of the page! If this simple problem is a sign of things to come, who would want to install axis? Like every new product, bugs and functionally have to be tweaked and modified. It has potential but not any time soon!!


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