Posted by: reformedmusings | September 10, 2008

Cool new search site – Searchme

After reading about Searchme on ZNet Tech Blogs, I had to try it out. You should, too. It’s a new beta search site. Current search engines were designed in the days of dial-up modems and limited RAM. Hence, all provide results in text pages. Now, most of use have broadband and gigabytes of RAM. Searchme leverages this newer capability in a big way.

Searchme opens to a page that depends on javascript, so you’ll have to allow searchme.com in NoScript in Firefox. You also need to enable pop-ups for the site because the default setting of Searchme opening links in a new window. I have Firefox set to open new windows in new tabs to keep things tidy. Here’s the opening screen:

SearchMe opening screen

SearchMe opening screen

Note that I typed “F-22” in the search box. Under the search box, Searchme has offered a number of category icons–military, aeronautics, games and entertainment, electronics, etc. Clicking on one of these will constrain the search to those tags, tailoring your results to your intent. You can further tailor the results by clicking on the types of media in the upper left corner of the screen–web, video, or images. I clicked on military, then images.

Your search results come up in a visual interface consisting of a Rolodex-like line-up of windows on the screen, which Searchme calls “stacks”:

Search results for F-22 military images

Search results for F-22 military images

You can scroll through the results either by clicking on the window panels or using the horizontal scroll bar below. When putting the mouse over the active panel, a small panel come up over the bottom of of the panel with a short description and the source link. You can either click on the active panel or the link that comes up below it to bring up the target site. Very slick implementation.

If you are looking for web pages, their current images appear in the stack:

Web pages in the result stack

Web pages in the result stack

Note that the search terms are highlighted in the active panel. This makes it easy to find your material on the target page. I use AdBlock Plus in Firefox and noticed another interesting thing. The webpage images all had current ads visible on them, but those ads didn’t appear when I went to those pages. Pretty cool way to gage AdBlock’s effectiveness. Using Chrome is another way, but that’s another story.

You can combine the benefits of this visual presentation with a more standard search display by clicking on the double arrow at the bottom-center of the screen. Also notice that the search terms are highlighted in the active panel on top of the stack:

Search result stack plus the lower panel

Search result stack plus the lower panel

These icons are the same options that were presented below the search bar as you typed the search parameters. If the results don’t work out the way that you planned, you can redirect the search clicking on those categories.

Searchme sports simple but useful settings, accessible on the upper right of the screen:

Preference menu for searchme

Preference menu for Searchme

You can filter the content, change the theme, tailor how search targets open, and control whether target media autoplays or not.

The “Stacks” item in the upper right corner provides an interesting capability that isn’t fully implemented yet in the beta. Here you can create new stacks of your own. Simply conduct a search, then drag the desired page over to the custom stack area. In this way, you can create stacks of your favorite news, weather, sports, tech info, etc. This creates a visual set of active bookmarks that execute together as a group. The beta stores these in your Flash cache on your PC, but the final version will store them online so that you can access them from anywhere. Way cool.

You can email stacks as well as embed them into blogs or webpages. They are highly portable and very handy. You can create any number of custom stacks, reorder the items in the stacks, delete panels from stacks, etc. Very cool.

The primary purpose of a search engine is to find what you seek on the web, not necessarily to look great. In the brief time that I’ve used Searchme, it seems to work well. Unlike Yahoo! and Google, seachme doesn’t present possible search-term matches as you type, nor does it suggest alternate spellings or searches if you mistype something and get no results. It rarely provides website front pages. For example, if I search on “reformedmusings”, it will offer up blog pages, but not the blog front page. I checked this with other sites and found the same result, but not all the time. Interesting. Only time will tell if it will improve this to match Yahoo! or Google for search performance.

In the meantime, take Searchme for a test drive. It seems like a nice step into the web’s future.

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