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Mahalo Follow does latent search, sans dolphins

Mahalo has a new extension for Firefox. What does it do?

Mahalo launched a new Firefox extension last week at Gnomedex. It's called "Follow," and once installed, it does just that. It's a mix of a toolbar and sidebar that pulls up related search results from whatever page you're on. It's got a built-in Mahalo search box in an attempt to ween you off your Google and Yahoo search tendencies. It's also got a StumbleUpon-like function to recommend whatever page you're looking at to others with yes, no, and maybe buttons, along with a button to take you to a random Mahalo page. The tool is being pitched as a way to show how Mahalo provides more interesting results, but I can't quite get my head around it.

For one thing, the sidebar takes up a lot of space. It's also not necessarily a new idea. Blinkx's Pico, Alexas' Toolbar, and Lycos' SideSearch have all been here before, and with similar execution--except in the case of SideSearch, which was spyware. The StumbleUpon likeness of the toolbar confuses me even more. There's no clear listing of the top recommended sites, and the subsequent customized Mahalo landing pages offer little at this point besides links to outside pages. There's also no user incentive to keep providing your tastes, as the random page button doesn't seem to learn from your likes and dislikes. It feels very much like a first step, but with an unclear direction.

I'm also willing to wager that most people who are using Google and/or Yahoo to do basic searches are seeking out one specific page--and it's likely in the first few results. Once they've found what they're looking for, they're done. The whole idea of Mahalo Follow seems to want you to get used to the idea of searching the pages you're on continuously, in what seems like the hope of getting you to dig deeper--using Mahalo of course.

That said, exploratory Web surfing is fun, and the extension itself is snappy. It doesn't slow down your main browser frame's load time and doesn't pop up with any warnings or other nonsense when the sidebar has been dismissed. For those interested, Mahalo is giving away various prizes to people who can get their friends to install and use the toolbar through the end of next month.

See also Search Engine Land and Download Squad's take.

Previous Mahalo coverage:
Jason Calacanis' Mahalo: Screw the long tail

Once you've got Mahalo Follow installed, it will pull up a sidebar of Mahalo search results every time you do a Web search. There's also a StumbleUpon-like toolbar on top of every page to recommend pages to others. CNET Networks