Leaders in Alternative Search
There is a search engine based in Pasadena, California called Snap.com with a stated desire to become “The other way to Search”. All it takes is a click and a search or two to see how Snap.com is a true alternative to the norms of search advertising. I recently asked some employees at ICMediaDirect.com to check out Snap as an example of a company that not only thinks “outside the box”, but operates there, too.
We’d do well to steer clear of any insurance group billing itself as a revolutionary and unprecedented kind of policy-provider. Indeed, risk management calls for avoiding risk while seeking measured solutions. This is in stark contrast to the Internet, which is still developing as a platform and needs creativity and innovation as much as we need oxygen. So when a giant like Bill Gross, founder of Snap.com, aims to build search alternatives, I take special notice.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Bill Gross, he is credited with developing the concept of contextual online advertising as we know it today through GoTo.com. His ideas have evolved into the success of pay-per-click that Google, Yahoo and others enjoy. I don’t know if anyone calls him the “Godfather of the Internet”, but I wouldn’t object to the phrasing. Simply put, his monetization model still fuels the progress of our medium.
For the last few years Gross has been hanging his hat at Idealab, a true hotbed of business ideas. Idealab’s ambitions even venture into harnessing solar energy. Snap.com is an offshoot of Idealab and is noteworthy for the exceptional contextual search features it provides. Searches with Snap.com give in-window previews of contextual ads. It allows you to glimpse a website in question before actually have to click and visit it. This innovation provides convenience to the potential visitor, who may get a better idea of what’s in store before clicking on an ad. The mouse-over display also saves the advertiser money, improves cost per acquisition, and lowers the visitors’ abandonment rate by minimizing the number of needless clicks from uninterested visitors.
Could you imagine a major search engine giving both users and advertisers this break? An advertiser with Snap.com gets more relevant and interested visitors while cutting down on accidental and costly clicks because people won’t be clicking on sites they don’t want to visit. This is one innovation most search engines will likely not adopt; I don’t see Google discouraging clicks to paid advertisements. This far reaching platform could be construed as self-defeating for a search engine when conventional standards are applied, but Bill Gross isn’t trying to be like everyone else. He either sees the future here or is taking jabs at the very model he created – or maybe a little of both.
Perhaps visual search displays for are too far ahead of its time. Leading search engines don’t want more informed and pickier searchers clicking fewer ads, but Gross’s career path is replete with successfully zigging while others zag. It might take some happy accident of his or an innovation of another company to marry well into Snap’s added contextual platform before Snap’s functionality goes from a cool alternative to an industry staple. I think Bill Gross banks on this.
Snap.com has also spawned Big.com, a search tool that employs the simplest concept that could ever be thought up, yet no one really did until Big.com: that’s a search engine with giant font. People who like Big.com include seniors, the vision impaired and me. It’s terrific, almost shocking to behold. The layout of Big.com is beautiful once you figure out what you’re looking at. Like any standard search engine, you’ll get results by entering keywords into a search bar. In this case, it’s virtually impossible to not find the search bar – trust me. Your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) comes back very simply with natural or organic results in the left column and paid search ads in the right – all in huge can’t miss print with paneled screen encompassing buttons instead of wee links to click. The ironic thing is that this giant font flies in the face of the incredible shrinking font of the Internet, a trend that’s due to contextual advertising which has increased the value of screen space, a trend that Bill Gross helped start as much as anyone.
Google and Yahoo don’t seem to be splashing big font for their users. I believe part of the Google’s franchise is a simple uniform look. Different font sizes for different users might ripple that magnificent pond. And with Yahoo, they need all the space they can get, big font might shoo some of their offerings off the monitor and that’s definitely not part of their business plan. It’s easy enough to change the color scheme, though. I like that.
Bill Gross has already contributed more to the Search business than anyone could expect an individual to. He could bow out now an accomplished pioneer. But that wouldn’t be like him or anyone with a pioneering spirit would it? As big names in search advertising emphasize profits, I think we have to dig around elsewhere to see where innovation will come from. And change just might come from the same guy who changed the rules of Internet advertising to begin with.
About the Author