Yahoo unveils Axis visual search browser for Apple's iOS


Yahoo is launching Axis, a free app for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS platform that combines mobile search capabilities with browser-based visual results instead of conventional text links.

Axis searches begin with a box enabling users to search online or go directly to any website. As consumers type, Axis generates visual previews of web pages, effectively eliminating text-based search results pages. "We have been conditioned to go "back" if we need access to our search results, but with Axis, your search results are always with you--reveal them at any time by simply pulling down on any page," writes Scott Fish, Yahoo's lead product manager for special projects.

The Axis approach slashes the time between entering the initial search query and identifying the desired result by about a third, according to Ethan Batraski, Yahoo's director of product management for special projects. Batraski told IDG News Service that while most searches require a three-step process--query, results page and selected result--Axis dumps the second step. "Nobody really likes the middleman," he said.

In addition to search features, Axis automatically synchronizes the user's browser activity across their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and/or desktop computer, allowing multi-device access to recently viewed site sites, bookmarks and articles marked to read later. Axis connects to all major HTML5-based browsers, including Apple's Safari, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox.

Yahoo adds that Axis is a hybrid app combining elements of native Objective-C programming and HTML5. The HTML5 code is powered by a Yahoo open-source platform dubbed Cocktails, which mixes HTML5, Node.JS, CSS3, JavaScript and Yahoo software. "One of the really big benefits that Cocktails brings to the table is the fact that server-side and client-side code is written in the same programming language," Fish explains. "This not only bridges the gap of resources and technical skills, but the same code can be used for both the client and server side."

Axis represents Yahoo's latest attempt to re-establish its brand for the mobile era. Earlier this year, the digital services firm announced plans to follow a "mobile first" mindset moving forward, vowing to introduce a series of new mobile applications during 2012. Earlier this month, Yahoo announced a deal with ABC to develop second-screen experiences around TV check-in app IntoNow, which it acquired in April 2011. The company also is moving into original scripted programming, teaming with Tom Hanks' Playtone to produce the interactive animated series Electric City.

The Axis launch follows less than two weeks after Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson resigned his post following controversy over misstatements on his academic record. Thompson was appointed to lead Yahoo in January 2012 after serving as president of eBay-owned digital payments platform PayPal, where he spearheaded the company's fast-growing mobile commerce efforts. Last month, it was revealed that Thompson's résumé erroneously stated he had obtained a bachelor's degree in computer science and accounting from Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. The college subsequently confirmed that he had earned only the accounting degree. Thompson blamed the "inadvertent error" on the headhunting firm that led Yahoo's CEO search, but the explanation did not satisfy investors.

Ross Levinsohn, who previously served as Yahoo's head of global media, has assumed interim CEO duties following Thompson's exit. Before running Yahoo's digital media efforts, Levinsohn served as president of News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media unit. He also held management jobs with search firm AltaVista and CBS Sportsline.

For more:
- read this Yahoo Mobile Blog entry
- read this IDG News Service article

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