Like (I suspect) most web workers, I spend a surprising amount of my day interacting with search engines as I try to find the information that I need. Over the years my ability to tweak queries to get what I want has improved greatly, but there are still times when I have to go through an overabundance of results to find the applicable ones. That’s where the new tool Surf Canyon comes in. They promise an automated assistant to help you quickly refine those troublesome queries.
After installing their Firefox extension (which works fine in Firefox 3), I took Surf Canyon for a spin. Running a straight Google query on “RIA” produces an abundance of results – on rich internet applications, the Research Institute of America, the Robotic Industries Association, and more. With Surf Canyon installed, each of those results gets a little bullseye icon next to it. Click the bullseye, and Surf Canyon opens a section with suggested search results that it thinks match your selected item.
Even better is the next part: after you use Surf Canyon to refine a query, you get a “More Results” link at the bottom of the page, which draws a full page of results based on its disambiguation of the original query. So, after telling Surf Canyon that I was interested in rich internet applications, this link digs through the original results and brings back just application ones, even though some of them were many pages deep when searching for “RIA”.
If you can hit your desired results with your original query, Surf Canyon doesn’t do much for you. But if you need to quickly narrow down on a set of results from an ambiguous heap, it shines. It’s available for either IE or Firefox, and works with Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Live Search, and it’s free.