Even as Google controls 67.5 percent of the search market, there are still startups that are trying to change the way the world finds content online from upstarts like Blippex or giants such as Apple with its Siri product. There is also Leap.it, a company in Kansas City, Kan. that started with a mobile product three years ago and has recently changed directions, focusing on a new search product for the web.
Yes, it’s a mobile world, but Leap.it CEO Mike Farmer is convinced that he can build a new web-based search experience more cheaply and then perhaps apply what it has learned to the mobile world. The product, called Leap.it, is a visual search page that showcases trending news on the home page and then responds to a search inquiry with visual cards that show what kind of content the searcher will find if she clicks.
In my searches I found that the experience was engaging, but also that the massive amount of search engine optimization and crap pages that offer computer-generated lists made for a cluttered page that was hard to scan for the information I wanted. For example, my search for “vegetarian crock pot recipes” and “how to teach my dog to dance” both led me to some decent initial results, but going any deeper was annoying as all get out because figuring out what was useful required me to click through to the results.
I imagine years of practice will help Leap.it differentiate between good and bad results. But the Leap.it experience shines in two respects: the social element and serendipity. The serendipity is easy; any visit to the Leap.it home page shows you trending stories, which is pretty much a cross between TMZ and Gawker. It’s akin to what Bing offers on its home page, only with a bit more information.
The other fun (and useful) element on Leap is the ability to save your high-quality search result cards as something called “a perspective.” These perspectives appear as a search result, which means my curated results now can help others searching for “how to teach a dog to dance” or “vegetarian crock pot recipes.” The idea is that humans will help cut through the SEO clutter and built out results worth coming to Leap.it for.
Below is a search result for “vegetarian slow cooker recipes” on Leap.it, which incorporates my perspective. Note, that the perspective was actually built using mostly imported links I found using Google as opposed to Leap.
And below is a Google result for the same search:
It’s possible that the greater amount of information and card-like format will win over fans, but I personally found the results better on Google given that there are so few people-created perspectives available. In a situation where I am researching a topic, as opposed to using search as a way to navigate content on the web, or as a replacement for our own site’s search function, Leap.it could give me information that I know was verified by a person if the perspectives take off.
I did love being able to organize quality results as a perspective, although that’s a service that various startups have attempted to provide in the decades since the web has been around.
Finally, for a company that was built as a mobile search company, I was curious about why Farmer decided to go back to the web. Like many of us, he believes that people, even when searching on mobile devices, want to use the web. His hope is that by focusing once again on the web he can help drive users back to that world, where it’s not only open, but also easier to develop for without investing so much in different apps.
Eventually he may take what he’s learned on the web and distill it into mobile apps, but Farmer is hopeful that he won’t have to.