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Mahalo Follow: Toolbar Gives You Human-Powered Alternatives To Searching, Surfing
Mahalo Follow is a new toolbar that
allows you to view Mahalo’s human-powered search results next to the results
from the major search engine of your choice or have them appear in response to
pages you view on the web.
Mahalo Launches With
Human-Crafted Search Results from me in May explains more about the Mahalo
service — Jason Calacanis’s challenge to Google and the other major search
engines that human editors can craft better results than algorithms. But nearly
two months after its launch, fair to say that the major search engines aren’t
shaking in their boots, as Mahalo has yet to gain any serious traction.
Enter Mahalo Follow as a solution. Understanding that searchers just aren’t
going to give up their favorite search engines, Mahalo Follow is designed to
complement regular results.
"It’s extremely hard to get off of Google. I’m having a hard time, and I run
a search engine," Calacanis told me, when talking about the new toolbar. "It might be a fool’s errand to get people
off. If you can’t get them off, maybe you can get them adjacent."
Do a search, and the toolbar puts Mahalo results next to the search engine
you used. For example, here’s a search for "simpsons movie" done with Google:
I did that search via the Groowe toolbar in
my browser (a great toolbar that I highly recommend). I could have done it using
the Google Toolbar, Firefox’s native toolbar or from the home page of Google or
another search engine. The result would be the same — Mahalo checks to see if
it has a match for what you searched for and, if so, opens up a sidebar window
showing its results.
It’s pretty smart only to open if it has something solid. A search for
"scouting" or "climbing walls," for example, didn’t make the window open.
Calacanis hopes that when people see his Mahalo results side-by-side with
regular search results, they’ll begin to consider Mahalo more for making
The idea of sidebar comparison search like this has been done before. Lycos
launched in July 2003 to show Lycos
results next to those of other search engines. That product never took off.
Search for it today, and you mainly find
pages from people who considered it spyware and were trying to get
it off their computers (I can’t even find that the product has an install page
any longer, though to serve its results remains
Perhaps Mahalo’s results will be so great that word-of-mouth gets everyone to
install Mahalo Follow, so that it doesn’t follow the route of Lycos SideSearch.
Then again, Jason’s got another idea — how about bribes? There’s a contest that
will reward people who get others to download the toolbar and conduct searches.
One twist Mahalo Follow has over Lycos SideSearch is that it will also show
you information as you surf, as opposed to just reacting to searches. For
example, below I’m reading an article about Elton John deciding the internet
should be shut down to inspire more creativity:
Off to the side, Mahalo helps me understand who this insane person is. I get
links to his official site, his Wikipedia entry, a video clip and more.
Again, though, Mahalo is following in footsteps already tried. The
Alexa Toolbar used to have a
sidebar to show related information about pages you viewed. This information
is still offered, though now via the toolbar’s drop-down menus.
Of course, Mahalo maintains the twist over both Lycos and Alexa in that the information it
provides is human-powered, rather than machine generated. Still, to come up with those pages, it has to automatically scan them, find
the words it thinks are most important and use that to generate sidebar results.
That’s far from perfect.
For the Vans web
site, Mahalo Follow tells you at the bottom of the sidebar that it found these
post, comment, before, login, must, xgames,
silver, bmx, gold, team, grab, skatevanscom, week, clip, password, permalink,
sign, check, forgot, media
As a result, it suggests topics such as American’s Most Wanted, Terrorism and
Violent Crime Rate:
Dude, skateboarding is not a crime! Nor a terrorist activity :)