by CIO Staff Shakes Up Web Search, Ad Biz

May 15, 20063 mins
Data Center, an upstart Web search firm, on Monday will unveil a new search format that will display paid and non-commercial results together in the same column, and use the resulting page space to display screenshots of the sites within a given page of results, the Associated Press reports via USA Today.

The majority of popular search engines today—Google, Microsoft’s MSN Search and Yahoo, for instance—all separate paid advertisements, or “sponsored links,” from search results generated by algorithms that are typically designed to filter out commercial content.

For example, a user that searches Snap for “football safety equipment” might find a Sports Illustrated article on football best practices directly above or below an advertisement for a Web sporting goods store, according to the AP.

Snap still designates paid ads from results generated by search algorithms by highlighting them with a bright orange disclaimer and an increased type size, the AP reports. Tom McGovern, Snap’s chief executive, told the AP that users won’t have to worry about not being able to tell the difference between the two.

“For very commercial searches, you will see all commercial results,” McGovern told the AP. “We are not trying to mislead anybody.”

Snap will also use the space it gained on its website by grouping the two forms of search results together to show snapshots of the websites found on results pages, according to the AP.

Users will be able to flip through the screenshots with a computer’s up and down buttons, similar to how a television viewer might channel surf, the AP reports. The idea behind the new feature is to cut down on the number of times users click back and forth between search engine results pages and the sites found on those pages, according to the AP.

Bill Gross, co-founder of Snap and a search industry veteran, told the AP, “It might take a few years for it to catch on, but we think we are establishing a new paradigm for search.”

Snap may have something, but the company has its work cut out for it if it wants Snap listed with Google, Yahoo and MSN as the industry’s leading engines. According to Nielsen/NetRatings research, the company has drawn no more than 700,000 new visitors to its search site during any month over the past year, the AP reports. 

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