Mahalo, the human-powered search startup which can, announced the release of a new search toolbar for Firefox: Mahalo Follow. Another search toolbar? Didn’t those stop, in like, 2003? Well, this one comes with a challenge: to “compare Mahalo results to your current search engine’s results, side-by-side.”
While we could’ve published this write-up five days ago when it first released, we wanted to put the toolbar to its test and actually see if it worked. The verdict: Google Toolbar is still the default search toolbar in my browser, but an additional companion is added and disabled in my Firefox setup: Mahalo Follow.
The toolbar resembles the Google toolbar in that you’re able to type in your search and it takes you to Mahalo. When no results are found for a term (as will be the case for 95% or so of your searches), Mahalo shows Google’s results below its ‘Related’ listings. Another element the Follow toolbar has is that the question “Would you recommend this page to a friend?” is posed at every page, and the choices Yes, No or Maybe are given. Presumably, Mahalo will use the data it gathers from this in the future to better its search results.
What I love about the toolbar, though, and the sole reason I’m refraining from uninstalling it, is the fact that whenever you’re on a random page — be it a search result on Google, video on YouTube or a Wikipedia page — and Mahalo thinks it knows what you’re looking for and can provide you with better information, a Sidebar automatically pops open with Mahalo’s human-edited results. Upon trying this with some general test queries and having it automatically happen upon (such as the Leeroy Jenkins page on Wikipedia), there’s a place for this in my life. I found that having the actual toolbar disabled doesn’t make a difference to the sidebar, so while it isn’t using any real-estate on my browser, I can be sure to take Mahalo’s help wherever it’s willing to give it to me.
As Jason Calacanis, CEO and Founder of Mahalo has stated in several places, Mahalo’s human editorial approach is only supposed to battle the top 10%ish searches on Google — in other words, the fat part of the long tail. They’re attempting to humanize 10,000 searches before the end of this year and provide quality, spam-less, well researched results for those. The Follow toolbar makes an excellent backbone for this approach, and I’m interested in seeing what they can come up with in the future.