As Simon noted in his review of the Search Site Firefox extension, some browser extensions can really help streamline online searching. One of the best extensions for this is Surf Canyon, which has just come out in a new version, 2.0.4. It’s only a tiny 33K extension, but it can be a great help in steering you quickly to the most relevant information on any search topic. Here’s how it works.
Surf Canyon is available as both a Firefox and Internet Explorer (s msft) extension. You can use it to get more relevant results when searching on Google (s goog), Yahoo (s yhoo), Craigslist, Lexis Web and MSN Live Search.
In the screenshot above, note that there are small bullseyes to the right of the Google search results shown. With Surf Canyon, you click on these bullseyes to get recommendations for more relevant search results for you. Surf Canyon have written a good post that describes the process for drilling down its relevancy recommendations. The example focuses on a classic search engine context problem, which is, in this case, whether a searcher looking for “dolphins” means actual dolphins or the football team.
If you are searching on “dolphins” in Surf Canyon, and you subsequently click on a bullseye for the Dolphins football team, the extension then knows what your original intent was. The Surf Canyon client-side application communicates with a centralized server where relevancy algorithms are hosted and maintained, so as you continue to click on bullseyes for dolphin-related results, it gets better and better at knowing what types of results you want. The best way to understand how good the extension is at this is to try it.
The new version of Surf Canyon includes several useful features that I’ve been trying out today. The most useful of these is a new top-of-page collection of search refinement suggestions, as seen below for a search on “dolphins.” The extension is smart enough to know that dolphins are intelligent, and that I may be interested in this aspect of them, and it also draws a relationship between dolphins and whales, in addition to other connections it makes. Across a whole lot of searches, I think I’ll find this useful, especially if I’m searching for something that I don’t know a lot about.
In addition to the suggestions, the new version adds the features summarized here. One handy addition (for Firefox users only) is that a bullseye status bar icon in the browser allows you to instantly turn Surf Canyon’s recommendations on and off.
Most of us spend a lot of time searching online. If you do, I recommend this extension.
What browser extensions do you use?