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The Future of Search: Exploring Visual Search Engines

Exploring Visual Search Engines

If a picture is worth a thousand words, viewing your search results visually can accelerate save you time while processing your results. Scrolling through long textual listings is time consuming, monotonous and eye-straining.

Google’s recent introduction of the Wonder Wheel made me wonder what other options are available. Of course, you can perform visual searches with MindManager 8. Beyond that, I started my research with Robin Good’s mind map of visual search engines. After checking out all the examples and writing this post, I stumbled on his original post.

What did I see?

Some of the players in this space are hungry startups while others, like SearchMe, have received millions in venture funding. Many had flashy and elegant designs while others looked like they were built with yesterday’s technologies. The best engines not only present eye-candy results but also provide the greatest insights by presenting the big picture to show you how all the results are interconnected.

My advice to these companies is to focus on providing richer, visual experiences built around the need to use information, not just see information.

Check them out and let us know what you think!



Grokker is a web based search engine and enterprise search tool that leverages content from a variety of sources and provides a visual interface to navigate and utilize information.

  • Search through multiple sources with a single query
  • Results are organized by categories
  • Filters can be applied to narrow down results
  • Map view provides a three-dimensional view that lets you zoom in and out
  • Save pages & documents into working lists for later reference
  • Add results to yourself or others
  • Export research results into a variety of formats (e.g. bibliographic, RSS, etc…)

Grokker has been around few a few years now and was utilized by some large companies like Sun Microsystems. Their application and site, however, looks like it hasn’t changed much since I last looked at it several years ago. Give Grokker a whirl.



French search and data visualization software publisher, KartOO, develops cartographic interfaces that allow you to quickly find data in searches, in timelines and in specific locations.

They claim nearly 200 customers (large corporations, government, small and medium enterprises, etc.) leverage their solutions in the fields of data visualization, strategic monitoring, and innovation management.

KartOO lets you:

  • Search with Google, and Yahoo!
  • View results in columns, list view, and multiple map views
  • Select a variety of complementary side bar views including top sites, related topics, news, images, and more…

Experience KartOO, learn more, or check out their blog (in French) for more information.



Everything is big in Texas. So, when search visualization developers created Viewzi they didn’t stop with a single visual view. Instead, they’ve developed 20 different views to display results based on the type of search you’re performing. Results can be arranged in stacks, along a timeline, for individual site information, photo tag cloud, and more. It also lets you customize results by showing or hiding results. Their goal is admirable: the right data, presented in the right way.

Check out Viewzi.



Qwiji, a recent startup coming from Tel Aviv, Israel, has set out to improve your experience with search results by letting you easily scroll through actual results. Qwiji, currently in beta, provides a navigation frame around result pages. This lets you navigate sites, watch videos or check out images without requiring you to hit the ‘back’ button on your browser or open up results in a secondary tab.

A really interesting feature lets you compile, post, and share ‘web shows’. Web shows let you watch the web, like you watch a TV program. You can pull together and annotate content, videos, and images. Or, sit back and watch the compilations created by the community.

Search on qwiji, create a web show, or check out their blog.



KoolTorch presents categorized results on a single page instead of letting users page through multiple search result pages. They categorize and cluster results in a multi-level graphical format – with large numbers of results (up to 100 or more) on a single page.



Quintura takes advantage of an interactive tag cloud that lets your filter down your web, video or image search results into a more meaningful result. They offer a free widget to provide an alternative search and navigation for your site. Perform a search or learn more, or check out their blog here.


Tag Galaxy

Tag Galaxy is an innovative engine to search images on Flickr. Enter a tag and you’ll see an interactive universe of related tags appear. Use your mouse to navigate the universe and click a neighboring planet to refine your image search. When you’ve built the tag planet, click it to see your images:

Click an image to see a larger thumbnail. Click again and get the details for the image from flickr. Click yet again and you can go to the flickr page to add comments, rate, etc…



Kosmix consolidates results from multiple sites and puts it into a portal for easy access. Users can also customize their own result pages to include videos, MP3s, RSS feeds, Videos from YouTube, Tweets and their own HTML code. Learn more about Kosmix with an example of their own, check out their blog, or have fun searching!



Searchme lets you see, navigate, and use what you’re searching for in a dynamic display. It provides results for the web, video, images, music, and news. It also has specialized filters to refine results for software, blogs, and shopping. Create a search ‘stack’ by dragging preferred results into a stack. Then, name it, change it, and share it with the world. I like the ability to play media, like the video above, directly in the results page.

Check out SearchMe stacks, test out all of their search tools, and learn more in their blog.



Ujiko presents categorized search results in something that resembles an old MP3 player. It groups results and color codes them by theme. Click on one of the themes to improve / refine your search. The more you use the tool, you are rewarded with additional, more advanced features. You can hide results from future searches, promote results to push them forward in your result lists, and take notes, add descriptions and store results in folders. Check it out here.



Search-cube presents web search results in a three-dimensional cube. The interactive interface previews of up to ninety-six websites, videos and images. It was a novel way to see sites, but left me wondering about the value.



Middlespot lets you see your results as screenshots that you can pan and zoom like a map, save relevant individual results in personalized workpads, and the ability to share workpads with colleagues. Search the web, images, news, Amazon, and twitter with middlespot.



oSkope lets browse images and products from sites like Amazon, eBay, flickr, fotolia, yahoo, and youtube. Select your site and either select categories and sub-categories or enter a search term.  It offers five different visual layouts: grid, stack, pile, list, and graph.
Clicking the thumbnails will display additional information about the photo or product. Click again to enlarge the image, play a video, or jump to the website.



nexplore displays search results for the web, news, videos, images, blogs, and podcasts in a summary, gallery or list view. Hover over entries to see previews of the web pages. Customize results by saving favorites and removing results from queries. Overall, the site was a little too busy and distracting for me.



Cooliris displays results in a 3D wall that lets you quickly preview images, videos, and more. 3rd Party sites that support cooliris let your navigate their media with ease. Navigate and explore media on top sites like Facebook, MySpace, Hulu, YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, Getty Images, and your own desktop. Search, share, view slideshows, navigate to web pages, shop, and explore news and entertainment channels. Cooliris has also created an iPhone app to let you browse and use media wherever you go.



eyePlorer provides access to facts. It visualizes facts as well as relationships between facts. Use eyePlorer to research, collect, process and publish information of interest. Currently, this search engine categorizes results from the English and German versions of Wikipedia. Drag and drop facts into a notepad which you can save or share with others. If you’re a fan of Wikipedia, check them out. Also, check out the eyeBlog.



RedZ loads search results into a scrollable display of site images. Decent idea, poor execution! The results present the #2 site as the ‘hero’ while the other sites are in the background. They provide no instructions how to navigate through the sites and when I did figure it out, the speed was so great that it was virtually useless. Cute logo though.



LivePlasma maps let you enter musicians, movies, directors, or actors to find similar results that may interest you. It groups results according to interests, style, and other criteria. Proximity represents the likelihood that you’ll like the result. Size represents popularity. Color groups like categories.



TouchGraph was founded in 2001 with the creation of the original visual browser for Google. It has since expanded to highlight relationships contained in Amazon, Wikis, and other popular information sources. The site lets you see relationships and launch sites. I played with TouchGraph years ago and it doesn’t appear to have been updated much since then. The company seems to be focused on building service revenues implementing their technologies at large organizations while leveraging their search platforms to build brand awareness.


What visual search engines are you using and why? What would make search work for you? Share below.



About the Author: Michael Deutch is Mindjet’s Chief Evangelist, content contributor for the Mindjet Blog and the Mindjet Connections newsletter. Get more from Michael on Twitter.

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