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Surf Canyon targets relevant results via browser extension

Start up launches browser add-on that helps refine results on major search engines.

Surf Canyon was set to launch a browser extension on Tuesday that aims to serve up more relevant results on the major search sites.

As CNET reported in September, Surf Canyon offers an easy way to narrow Web queries, and it learns your preferences based on what results you choose to view.

The technology previously sat on top of a third-party search engine, but now it's a browser extension that works with Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft Live search so you don't have to go to the Surf Canyon site except to download the browser add-on.

Once you type in a query in the search engine, you will see a bull's-eye icon next to results and clicking on that, or clicking on the result link, displays three recommendations that are similar to that item. The technology cumulatively learns your preferences during the browser session and offers suggested links that reflect that.

I tried a search for articles written by a colleague who has a common name, Michael Parsons. With a regular search I found that the first result for him was down the page on Google, and I had to keep searching among a lot of other Michael Parsons to find other relevant links.

After I downloaded the Surf Canyon extension, Michael wasn't higher in the results because the technology doesn't change the result rankings. However, when I clicked on the bull's-eye next to the relevant results, I got recommendations for other links related to him. It was a much quicker way to find his articles than scanning through pages of Web results.

I also found that as I clicked on his CNET UK articles, the system fed me up more of the CNET items than his Times Online and other articles. Such preference learning only lasts for a browser session, so if I'm searching for bass guitars and drums one session but then search for bass fishing supplies later, it won't fall back on the earlier preferences.

It's a nice idea, but how are they going to make money?

The same "inferred intent" model that is used to come up with the recommendations will be used to display more highly targeted sponsored links, says Mark Cramer, founder and chief executive of the start-up. "Our (business) model is to be included in the incremental ad revenue that we're able to generate off the search results page."

Surf Canyon lets you refine searches by offering suggestions related to results you are interested in. Surf Canyon