Microsoft’s new browser IE 8 is now in general release. There are loads of features, which I won’t go into at length. Danny did a preliminary overview of the search and ad-related features of IE8 already, which I’m sure he’ll revisit at some point. And the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg offers a generally favorable review, but has some complaints about speed.
The two things I’m going to discuss in this post are Microsoft’s “Live Search Accelerators” and Yahoo’s new “visual search shortcuts.”
Live Search Accelerators perform a range of functions, searches or lookups on, for example, a piece of text, a product name or address within a web page. You can also translate text into another language or send it to Facebook or Digg, among other options. To use the tired phrase: it’s like right click “on steroids.”
Users highlight the text and an Accelerator icon appears. That in turn opens a menu with various options with what to do with the passage or text (those options can be expanded with a range of add-ons). The benefit is that information or a search result appears in a window on the page so you don’t have to open a new tab or visit another site to get the desired information.
This is a great feature; however, I was having some difficulty getting it to work on my older PC laptop (probably a function of the laptop rather than IE8).
Here’s a list of all the current Accelerator add-ons. The mapping Accelerator, one of the most useful features in my mind, allows users to lookup addresses on Live Search Maps or Yahoo Maps right on the page you’re on. So if you want to see what neighborhood a particular hotel is located in, you can do that without going “over” to a mapping site. Conspicuously absent, however, are options to use Google Maps or MapQuest.
Hopefully those options will be added in the near term.
I’m sure that Microsoft sees this and other features of IE8 as a way to grow share in various categories and expose Live Search (or whatever it becomes) to more users. So there’s some tension between using this property to advance Microsoft’s specific interests and offering a service or toolset that is fully user centric. I’m sure the developers would argue the company is trying to do the latter.
The other development I wanted to discuss is Yahoo’s “visual search shortcuts.” This operates from the search box on the browser toolbar. Yahoo must first be selected as the search provider in the IE 8 search box (Live Search is the default). If you then enter a query you see search suggestions but also “shortcuts” for certain categories of information: stocks, movie showtimes, movie reviews and weather.
Here’s an example of what you get on a lookup for the stock quote for “Yhoo”:
Like Accelerators, this feature is also very helpful in quickly getting to desired information without opening new tabs or pages. Yahoo says that it will roll out more categories of shortcuts in the future.
There are no ads in visual shortcuts for IE8 however. If one were to perform the same searches on Yahoo proper there would be, or potentially be, sponsored listings that appeared with search results.