I just installed BetterSearch . BetterSearch is a firefox extension that enhances search results from Google, Amazon, A9, MSN, AllTheWeb and others with a thumbnail of each site and buttons and provides a button to open a preview of the linked item in-situ.
Both features can help you find the best result more quickly. Unfortunately, the thumbnail is usually of the top level of the site, so its not always an accurate clue about the contents of the page. Also, the link to bring up the in-situ preview is nearly microscopic, which means it takes more time to hit accurately, which both reduces its utility as a productivity tool, and adds frustration.
The thumbnail issue is not an easy one to fix since the extension is relying on 3rd partys for thumbnails. For the author to do it himself server-side would surely be cost prohibitive. The BetterSearch extension could download the pages and render the thumbnails itself, but this would probably be rather slow. It could come in handy though, if the downloaded page remained in the browsers cache, because people could then view the page that much quicker.
The difficulty in hitting the preview button is an easier fix, the author could just make the graphic for the button significantly wider.
In some ways what’s most interesting about BetterSearch is its business-model. The guy rewrites Amazon URLs to include his affiliate ID. Whether Amazon regards this as an activity in line with its terms of service is another matter.
At least all parties receive some benefit (amazon gets a sale, the customer has an easier time of finding things, and the plugin author gets paid). Browster has a similar product for IE, but it makes its money by selling ads on other people’s content and doesn’t cut them in, which is lame. Also lame, coming up with yet another “ster-name.”
I was a little worried that BetterSearch was loaded with spyware, but a little searching turned up nothing, though there is a similarly named piece of adware which seems entirely unrelated.
I applaud the effort to help move us past the same old search results we’ve seen since before AltaVista, but I think I’m going to un-install better search, at least until its easier to hit the preview links.