Tuesday, March 29, 2005


snap: the little search engine that might

You have no doubt heard of The Little Engine That Could and how it overcame enormous obstacles to bring toys to the children on the other side of the mountain. Well Snap is not yet that kind of search engine, but if there is one thing that sticks out among this site's slick design and alternative take on search results then it is the distinct whisper that keeps repeating "I think I can! I think I can!"

There are a number of things that make Snap unique and intriguing, not least of which is the public discloser of their search stats (including total clicks and total revenue). Beyond adding transparency to the search engine, it also helps build curiosity and even visitor loyalty by allowing you to see just how well your favorite search engine is doing. The engine's blog seams to more or less serve the same purpose and is filled with subtle winks that let you know they don't take themselves too seriously.

It is on the search results page, however, where Snap really starts to come into its own. Offering a combination of click, sale, and lead based advertising, Snap appears to be targeting the long tail of online search by offering a combination of website and product results and publicly disclosing what Snap itself stands to gain from each transaction. An example search for digital camera brings up a plethora of vendors such as Best Buy, Wolf Camera, and Canon's own consumer site. It also includes a list of popular cameras and adds the ability to compare prices at various online outlets.

Beyond the commercial aspects of the results Snap is also trying to play with the standard ranking method most search engines use. From the Snap Tour:

"By knowing which sites users spend time on versus sites they quickly leave, Snap Rank provides results that get you what you want faster than pure algorithmic ranking."

Snap is an IdeaLab company and uses a pretty robust group of partners to bring everything to together. It is obvious that Snap still has a long way to go, but given the quality and innovation displayed in their current site I am sure they will find the success they seek. That said I only wish Snap would take over all those domain squatters who redirect me to meaningless search pages when I miss type URLs. If that happened then I might actually be tempted to buy something instead of yelling "Gluttonous Harpy!" and going to Google.

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