I recently came across a fairly new search engine called, Snap. Snap is a search engine created by Idealab that aims to “get the search results that you REALLY want.” So I took a look around at the search results and other options and I must say, Snap is very impressive. It has a heavy use of Ajax, at a point where there may actually be too much, but it certainly does do an excellent job. They have a few different search options, and I will go over a few of them. You can search the web, products, jobs, news, and lastly what I found very interesting and helpful, UltraSearch. I will go over the web search, job search, and then the UltraSearch features with you.

Immediately when entering Snap, there is use of Ajax. You will see a list under, “Web Results,” that is dynamically loaded depending on your search term in the search box. The “Web Results” area will show you a list of popular searches and how many results come up for that search term. Now, go to the search box and type something like, “Firefox.” You will notice the page loading new results as you type. Not only will the Web Results area have new results, but the news section on the right of that will as well. So, I typed in “Firefox” and selected the popular result, “Mozilla Firefox.” You will then see a page similar to the above format. It will list each search result with a screenshot, if any, and of course, a description of the search result. You will also notice on the left that there is still the “Web Results” area. This is there so when you type a search term again, it will still come up with the most popular results like it did on the main page. You may also be wondering where they get their search results from. Snap has a number of partners that provide results, such as LookSmart, Dmoz, Moreover, Smarter, etc.. I feel that the results are decent, but I feel that the results that Google and Yahoo return are more relevant for the Web Search (Maybe I am just saying that though because Solution Watch doesn’t come up when searching, “Brian Benzinger”).

The Job search really sparked my interest. I am employed, but I do like to see what’s in the area every once in a while. Snap Job search is powered by SimplyHired and returns great results with multiple search fields. Yes, the Job search uses Ajax as well. Above is the basic format of the search. On the top is the main search field. When typing a search term, the job results will actually filter out what you are typing and will highlight your term in each result. You can filter the results by the time the job was posted, the job title, company, and location. As I typed in the job title, “Web Developer,” I immediately started seeing accurate results. But to filter even more, I put the location, “CT.” By the way, the filtering is dynamic as well, so as you make a change, it will change the results accordingly. I saw a few job titles that looked interesting, so I clicked on one, making it highlight the results row. When clicking on it, the right side will then fill up with a nicely organized job description area. I like the description area because it isn’t cluttered, shows the logo of the company the job was found from, and provides all the information I need. Quick and easy. Then depending on the result, you can click on the buttons above the description: Details, Apply Now, Job Board, and Company. These will simply bring you to the site the job result came from so you can apply and see more information.

Snap also has a great News search that allows you to easily search and read news in World, U.S., Top Stories, Buiness, Sports, and Entertainment. What I like about it is that you can easily filter through the news with the Ajax searching and then when clicking on a news item, it not only gives you a description, but a screenshot of the news site with its article open. There is one thing that kind of gets to me when viewing results for the news and job search. The fake scrollbar. It is a draggable bar that uses Ajax to update the results as you drag it or when you drop it. Why does it have to load the results over again when you scroll? Why not just have all the results in a normal scrollable area? Am I the only one that feels this? It does get the job done though. Now onto something that I found very interesting, the UltraSearch.

When going to the UltraSearch, it will ask you to download an extension for Firefox. If you are using Internet Explorer, it will use ActiveX to setup their file for you to use UltraSearch. What UltraSearch allows a much more advanced and speedy search process. You get instant results in either one frame or a 4-frame split window, or Multi Site View. You can browse results using the up and down arrows, view your search term highlighted on any site that came up with a result, and even delete results that you feel are not needed in the results for your searching. Lets start by making a simple search, “PHP.” When submitting it will then bring up a two column page. On the left column, taking up about 20% of the width, will show the results. On the right, you will actually see the first results site loaded on the right. You will also notice that the term you search is highlighted on the site. Now, click on the next result. Notice how it immediately brought up the next page? Well, that is because loads each site that comes up as a result before you actually view it. This way you can search faster then ever. Now that you have seen that, lets take another step to the multi site view. Remember how the sites are loaded before viewing them? Want to view more then one of that at once? Then click on the “Multi Site View” button. The layout will then split into four different windows. Each window with four results, starting at the result you last clicked. Each frame has the terms highlighted and you can also browse throughout each frame. I find this very helpful, especially when searching for specific information. You can view four results at a time each highlighting the term. What I also find very helpful is that when browsing through sites in the UltraSearch tool is that it will still highlight your term, no matter where you go inside of a result page. For example, you go to a result and then click on the about section. The terms that you searched for will still highlight on that page as well, if the term is in it. The UltraSearch is certainly very helpful and is also very impressive. It does seem to be a little stressful on the browser at times, but for the most part, it works really well.

Overall, Snap is an excellent search engine. Results are immediate, fairly accurate, the job search is excellent, and the UltraSearch is amazingly helpful. Snap seems to run fine in Firefox, Internet Explorer, and I also tried it in Flock. Give it a try and tell me what you think about Snap.

View Snap Beta – Next generation search.


2 Comments on “Snap Beta – Next generation search”

  1. Name (required) says:

    Next generation search? I hope bloody well not.

    That is just not cool. What a ridiculous mess, what a step backward for usable, accessible, web design.

    Download an extension? Needs an activeX control?

    I don’t need a browser *in* my search engine, I already *have* a bloody browser.

    Search results in little left screen, gives me huge blank space on right “This link might not open correctly … ” Slow, a slew of confusing poorly labelled controls. This is search, right?

    This is just so horrible – it *must* be the future.

    Load up on AJAX, bring your friends …
    Smells like VC.

  2. Brian Benzinger says:

    I appreciate the comment and understand your concerns. But note that you do not need an extension or activeX to search Snap, but if you want to take advantage of their UltraSearch functionality, then you do. UltraSearch uses technology that a standard browser cannot simply do on its own and if it can, it probably will not run as smoothly.

    You also say that the left screen gives you a blank space? Maybe this is a browser issue? If so, I recommend reporting it to Snap.

    Thanks