Search Engine Shoot-Out

The Future of Search

Search sites continually test new looks, some of which may go mainstream at some point. For instance, Ask.com's Act X interface divides the results into three regions: The middle displays standard text and links, the left has links for expanding/narrowing a search, and the right serves up related dictionary and encyclopedia entries, as well as shopping links. Google lets the public test its experimental interfaces at www.searchmash.com.

One company that is taking a different approach to search is Snap, which lists search results in the left half of the browser and a preview of the first result in the right half. Each result has a Preview button you can click to see the page. Or click the Next Result button to scroll through previews in sequence.

In all these experimental interfaces, the search box is still the sole means of data entry. Don't expect this to change anytime soon, although work continues on voice-driven search. Google recently took the wraps off its experimental Voice Local Search service: Dial 800/GOOG-411 (800/466-4411) to try it out yourself. (The company warns that the service is currently available only in the United States, for businesses in this country.)

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