As I’ve pointed out many times, Bill Gross, the man behind Snap (and Goto/Overture and about 25 other search related companies) is not one to take lightly. When Snap launched, I watched closely, and while many of its features were admirable (the transparency, for one, and later, the CPA model, for another), it never quite got enough lift under its wings, at least in its first year.
Today Snap is relaunching as a “broadband search engine.” That means, it’s heavy on Ajax features, clustering, and related results, among other things. It certainly is a new look. The results include large thumbnails of prospective pages, for example, and a suggested terms autocomplete feature (not unlike Google Suggest). In fact, there are tons of features that have been tried in various other places, but never have so many been implemented in one place at one time. It’s an attempt to fight one’s way out of the single search box interface, and whether it works or not, it’s worth a look. The theory is sound – which is usually the case with Gross’s companies – but often he’s ahead of the market.
My quick take is that I’m so used to Google’s dominant interface, I initially got lost using Snap. It takes some time to get the hang of it. One thing that I want to do is click through directly to the site, but instead, I’m in a window on the right. There’s much to think about here – it feels more like search inside a multi-column RSS reader like Shrook, oddly. You can ask Snap to show you a new window, which is good.
Snap is also rethinking relevance by licensing ISP clickstream data and feeding it back into its relevance engine. This to me is where the really interesting stuff lies. It’s a way to fight spam – folks tend not to spend a lot of time visiting spammy sites – and, in an ideal world, provides a potentially better set of results than simple link analysis.
The Snap model incorporates paid inclusion and pay per action, and I think this may be where it falls down. While this is certainly an innovation in the affiliate/adsense spam market, it’s also open to charges of blurring the lines, which was exactly the problem with Goto when it launched. We’ll see.
Snap is promoting its new engine and its launch on Searchblog, among many other sites. As part of that promotion, I’ve agreed to head over to Snap’s blog and include my own ideas in their “Other Way to Launch” contest. I’ll be doing that soon, and will add the link here so you can see what I wrote.