Over the weekend, I was invited into the private beta of SearchMe, a new search engine that puts the focus on “visual search” — that is, navigating everyday search results through a new (or additional) interface as opposed to the ever-longing standard of a title, description, URL used by every search enginesince the 1990s.
The interface seems presents itself as simple and sleek. Upon conducting a query, SearchMe presents a Flash-based iTunes “Coverflow”-style navigation of screenshots of the search result page. You can scroll through them easily and even hit the back button to scroll back to the previous result — if you’re familiar at any level with iTunes and iPhone’s coverflow, it’ll all seem natural.
The search engine, which carries its own index of 1 billion pages, also presents a number of various categories to a particular search — including television, movies, entertainment news and gossip, and blogs. Additionally, the traditional “title-URL-desc” results are also presented in a window below and resizeable. What’s great is that as you visually browse through them, they correspond to the the result.
Based out of San Francisco and Mountain View, SearchMe has nabbed a staggering $31 million venture round from Sequoia Capital, whom you’ll probably know as one of the leading VC firms behind Google, Ask, YouTube and Apple. Search is a huge market these days and the barrier to entry is becoming greater and greater — while $31 million may seem a lot, it’s nothing compared to the billions and billions of dollars Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft inject into their properties.
For a fairly new search engine, SearchMe’s results seem quite impressive. A hundred million times more relevant than Wikia’s pathetic search attempt (if that’s possible), I was able to find fairly relevant search results with SearchMe, and their coverflow technology is nothing short of useful. However, I’d much prefer it if the technology was used to search through Google or Yahoo! as opposed to building an index of its own. In the search market, it’s much more easier nowadays with Google’s dominance to build your technology on top of, rather go against, the giant. Case-in-point: Mahalo.