It happens – the phenomenon of similar ideas all hatching at the same time. The latest seems to be synchronous web experiences. I’ve heard about three or four of them in the past few weeks, the latest being Microsoft’s Search Together. From a page explaining the research project:
Search, of course, has become ubiquitous for enabling users to find Web content, but existing search engines have been designed for use by an individual. Search interfaces don’t support collaborative search. Collaborating on search generally means one person at a keyboard while another makes suggestions, or two people using instant messaging or a phone while each is viewing a Web browser. It can work, but it’s not optimal.
While using SearchTogether, though, users can collaborate locally or at different locations, working in tandem or at different times.
Cool idea, but you have to use all Windows and MSFT stuff (Messenger, Live ID, etc) to make it work.