Beta Watch

Hakia: Search With Less Scrolling

When Google serves your search results, it highlights the places where your search terms appear. Hakia, a new search engine in public beta, tries to make the highlighting experience better in two ways. Hakia's developers say the engine looks not just for the words in your query, but for the meaning; it also tries to match your query with phrases on the sites it finds that match that meaning. And if you use the service's Internet Explorer plug-in (a Firefox plug-in is due in October), it'll scroll to exactly the portion of the page that contains your phrase.

SpaceTime: Better 3D Browsing

Browse thumbnails of search results in 3D using SpaceTime.
Browse thumbnails of search results in 3D using SpaceTime.
Most approaches to three-dimensional browsing have been seriously disappointing. SpaceTime, a free public beta download, has some good ideas, though it's still too buggy to use regularly. SpaceTime arranges large thumbnails of sites in a line stretching out into a blue sky. To interact with a page, you double-click the thumbnail. SpaceTime lets you quickly flip through the top five results of a Web search, and seeing images of the pages instead of a snippet of text sometimes makes it easier to figure out whether you want to visit them. On my system, though, generating the thumbnails took a noticeable amount of time--10 seconds or so.

Pownce: Microblogging Plus File Transfers

Microblogging--broadcasting one-sentence updates on your life--is the Web's latest trend. The early leader is Twitter, but Pownce, an invitation-only beta, adds the ability to send files and easily make links or format information on events. Pownce, though, loses the element of voyeurism that can make Twitter a guilty pleasure. At Twitter, it's easy to see anyone's inane posts. Pownce mostly shows you the inane posts of people you know, which can be less entertaining.

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