New Search Toolbar Adds Visuals to Results

Viewpoint on Tuesday moved into search by partnering with Yahoo for its search engine and launching a toolbar that transforms static search results into navigable thumbnails of Web pages.

A company best known for its multimedia player is promising to change the way people retrieve and navigate their search-engine results.

Viewpoint Corp., of New York, announced on Tuesday a new search-engine toolbar that incorporates its graphics technology so users can better visualize their search results. Viewpoint has partnered with Yahoo Inc. to use Yahoos recently revamped search technology for both Web search results and paid listings.

The Viewpoint Toolbar at first appears similar to the many search toolbars available from top search sites such as Google Inc., Yahoo and MSN. After a free download of the toolbar for Internet Explorer, users can enter search queries directly from it. It also includes a popup ad blocker and the ability to store favorite sites, which also can be transferred into the browsers bookmarks.

/zimages/5/28571.gifMSN was the most recent toolbar entrant. Click here to read about its beta launched in January.

But Viewpoint adds a different twist through what it calls its "Graphically Enhanced Search" technology. Search engine results appear not only as a typical list of Web sites but also as thumbnails of the live Web pages in horizontal tray under the toolbar (see screenshot).

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The tray of thumbnails stays present as users navigate the various sites, ending the need for them to repeatedly hit the back button to view the results, Viewpoint CEO and President Jay Amato said.

"Ninety-eight percent of [the toolbars] look exactly the same, and we really believe theres a lot of innovation opportunities on the front end," Amato said. "This is a real opportunity to bring the power of graphics to search because search is still left in the dark ages as far as improving the interface of doing it."

Users also can mark specific thumbnails for later viewing and add them to the Viewpoint Toolbars favorites. The favorites then can be viewed and accessed through the thumbnail tray. Viewpoints Pop-Up Slammer feature also stores blocked pop-up ads for later viewing in the tray.

Search is a new area of business for Viewpoint, which is best known for its Viewpoint Media Player. The player, distributed on about 120 million PCs, is packaged in software such as America Online Inc.s software for paid subscribers, Amato said.

Viewpoints goal is to reach 15 million users with its new toolbar this year. Along with the free download, it plans to offer the toolbar to 30 million of its media player users, Amato said. While the toolbar is free, Viewpoint plans to earn revenue through its share of the paid search listings from Yahoos Overture Service Inc. division, Amato said.

The Viewpoint Toolbar is set for a beta test in early March and will be generally available on March 17, Amato said. It will require Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 and higher and will include automatic updating when new versions are released.

Viewpoint expects to add a wider range of features to the toolbar in the future. It already allows users to customize the look and operation of the toolbar through custom skins.

Viewpoint is considering adding desktop version of its software and examining ways that its technology can be incorporated with Longhorn, Microsoft Corp.s next Windows release, Amato said.

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