Update: we have invites! Head on over to http://viewzi.com/invites and enter “gio” as your referral code.
Visual search engines, or rather, the ones that make a claim to provide alternative visual ways to search, have been on the rise lately — and rightly so, with the advent of Flash and AJAX. A few days ago we reviewed SearchMe, which featured an Apple-like ‘Coverflow’ view of its internally-crawled search results. Viewzi is the latest play in the area and is being touted in the blogosphere as the first to get it right.
The search engine, firstly, differs from the few I’ve seen in that it doesn’t assume that only one type of an interface is suitable for every search. Instead, it presents and allows you to choose from a slew of different interfaces and tools after you make your query. These are slightly optmized to the query, but I didn’t find much of a difference between the ones I tried — perhaps its because of the limited number of search tools available at this point.
There are, obviously, a whole bunch of tools to select from, but I’ll cover the main few that were presented for most general queries (note: unfortunately you need beta accounts to click on the ‘example’ links. If the Viewzi folks want to help out invite-craving Rev2 readers, we’d love some):
Simple Text View (example)
Loads simple/regular text results from meta-querying Google and Yahoo!. While fundamentally the same as normal search results on the respective search engines, they are slightly more edge and ‘2.0’ and sleek with their highlighting, and provide a helpful Compete.com rank for each site.
Web Screenshot View (example)
Similar to SearchMe, the results with this tool are presented in the Apple coverflow style, although not so mimetically. Additionally, since Viewzi is a meta search tool and doesn’t crawl its own index, the results are from Yahoo!, and while drastically more relevant than SearchMe’s, the screenshots are of inferior quality.
Basic Photo View (example)
This is the image search function of Viewzi. Searching Riya and Flickr, the tool gathers images and presents them in a more navigatable format. Although, it links back directly to the original image as opposed to dynamically enlarge it unlike most other visual image search tools I’ve seen, which I thought was a little odd — if that’s the point, why not just use Flickr?
4 Sources View (example)
One of the strikingly different tools out there — and in a good way — this is like meta search 2.0. It searches Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask, and lays out screenshots from their results with corresponding labels as to which search engine it came from. For ones presented in multiple, or all 4, the screenshots are stacked. I’ll admit, it’s no less than neat.
Video x3 View (example)
One of the more nichely useful tools I found, this one searches through video search engines — namely YouTube, Blinx, and Veoh — and presents the results in a scrollable landscape video reel-like format. For a video searcher, it’s not a bad searching alternative as it is. I also love how the Blink search results are animated.
Everyday Shopping View (example)
This is one of my personal favorite tools. It searches shopping sites — Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Target — and lays out the results in a simple, standard format with the picture and the price. For a shopping searcher, this could prove immensely helpful. And in the interface lickability factor, it doesn’t score too badly either.
After reading through the hype and testing out the tools individually, I have to admit, Viewzi lives up to it. Something I love is that as a search engine, it’s focus is not on relevancy or providing the best search results, but on the different ‘views’ and how best to present them using search algorithms already out there. And it works fantasically. I’ll admit, there are a few clunky tools — such as the Photo View and Screenshot one that I’m not sure add a whole lot of value — but there are some real jems. And the best thing is, as more get built, it’s going to keep growing with more new tools. For a visual searcher, for the 2.0 searcher, and for the advanced searcher, Viewzi isn’t just worth a try — it’s worth the replacement.