I first talked with Surf Canyon in 2007 and, in a profile for The Guidewire Report, took a wait-and-see approach to the company’s search technology. Delivering personalized, refined results to searchers via its Web site, Surf Canyon chose to focus on result customization rather than building an index from scratch. At the time, I wondered why another entrant was needed in search and posited that more differentiation was needed to make the service stand out. With today’s launch of its Discovery Engine for Search, Surf Canyon delivers that differentiation.
A browser plug-in for Firefox and Internet Explorer, the Discovery Engine has two things going for it: no new behavior is required from the user and no additional sites need be visited. I’ve been using the plug-in for several weeks now and have quickly grown to love it. It’s one of my favorite types of technology – I downloaded it and forgot about it until it made my life easier. When I search for something on Google, click a link and find it’s not what I need, hitting the back button activates Surf Canyon. It notes the link I clicked on and drills further down into the results to deliver similar results. Alternatively, you can click on the bulls-eyes next to each result to drill down without clicking through a link. I recently searched for the phrase “semantic investments.” Clicking on a link that interested me returned a related result from page 16 of the Google results – one I never would have seen without Surf Canyon.
It’s so simple and works so well that I wonder how much of a buzz it will raise in the search world. There are no tech stars behind it, no semantic appellations, no promises to change the world or defeat Google. Just an easy-to-use service on the front and complex algorithms on the back that make my existing search habits much more productive.