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 searches initially.
The idea of sidebar comparison search like this has been done before. Lycos SideSearch was 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 here).
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 words:
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 :)