Yahoo Axis: A Better Web Browser?
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.
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".
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 29 May 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Yahoo Axis: A Better Web Browser? (Posted: 29 May 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved