Yahoo Axis (of evil?)
Posted by Andrew Tobert on 12 June 2012
At the end of May, former-relevant company Yahoo launched their “browser”, called Axis. But what’s it all about? And will that axis pun in the title be the last I can shoehorn into this article?
So what’s the deal? I’m always a fan of balance, so here’s what Yahoo themselves have to say.
But what’s it like really?
I’ve been using it for a couple of days, and well, I’m not sure I can see the point. Or rather, I can see the point but I’m not sure it’s very helpful.
The term ‘browser’ is misleading first of all. Because that’s not what this is. Yes, it’s a standalone app for iPods and iPhones, but if you’re using a normal computer (including, curiously, Macs) it plugs into Firefox and Chrome, as an extension.
So firstly, it has ideas above its station. It’s an add-on, not a browser.
Secondly, it theoretically speeds up browsing by removing the search results page. Type in your search term in the Axis bar, and up comes a snapshot of the results pages. Let’s try ‘men’s boots’.
Now, if I was searching for men’s boots, I’m probably looking to buy some. So what are the top four results?
We have the Yahoo shopping feed, in dollars. (This for a search conducted in the UK by a British person: me.) The next are all retailers, (ShoeBuy.com. Zappos.com, FamousFootwear.com). None of these brands operate in the UK, so this, for me, is pointless.
Ok, let’s be fair, it’s a new service from an American company. Let’s assume they haven’t got round to localizing it for small, insignificant countries such as mine. But even if I was American, how useful would this search be?
‘Men’s boots’ is a commercial term eg, people who search for it are probably thinking about buying some. So it’s natural that we’d expect some retailers to appear. But how much information can we really get from a tiny thumbnail of the homepage? Is this really an improvement on the traditional search result screen? I don’t think so.
Let’s look for something else. How about 'Camila Alves'?
I have a confession to make. I do not have the first clue who Camila Alves is. I chose her as a example because Yahoo suggested her. (They have a ‘trending searches’ column in Axis). Ok so here goes ...
We start with the Yahoo News results (I’m sensing a theme here), then we get Wikipedia, her personal site, AskMen.com and an IMDB link at the very end. So I could guess she’s an actress. And if I squint my eyes, I can just about make out in the Yahoo news that she’s married Matthew McConaughey. So what does Google say?
Here I can see (without squinting) that she’s married to Matthew McConaughey. Wikipedia tells me that she’s also a Brazilian model and TV performer. I can see what she looks like in the images and IMDb tells me that she was in ‘The Confidant’ and that she met Matthew at the Cannes Film Festival two years ago.
Which of these results is honestly more useful? What value is Yahoo actually adding?
Let’s see what their advert says:
Ok, so nothing. I’m not sure remembering the last website I visited will let me "rip through the web" actually. I use Chrome (which does that automatically) but I’m not sure I’ve ever used another computer and had a mild panic about what the last site I visited was. If I did, I’d probably just Google some keywords and up the article would come. I mean, we do live in the 21st century after all.
So why has Yahoo done this? Well, search for something on Axis. Anything. If you search a product, you’ll get Yahoo’s shopping portal up first. An artist you like, you’ll get Yahoo music. A destination brings up Yahoo travel.
Yahoo basically haven’t got the memo about web portals belonging to the 90s. This, sadly, is just a tool to get more people on their site. But I don’t think it can ever work. Why would we, the consumers, WANT to go on their site? And if we did want to, wouldn’t we just go there without having to be hoodwinked into doing so?
One day, I hope, Yahoo will create a product that represents an actual innovation. Something that consumers find useful. That day sadly, is not today.