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Internet Explorer 8 Goodies

This week Microsoft approved two applications that integrate Stinky Teddy's Gossip Powered search directly into your browser and posted them in the Internet Explorer Add-ons Gallery. These tools were built to take advantage of some great features that Microsoft added to Internet Explorer 8. Browsers are becoming like smart phones where the actual phone is not as important as the apps that are available (in the browser world, "apps" are known as "add-ons"). Mozilla's Firefox is the king of the add-on business. Firefox was built as a lightweight shell that could be customized by the user. There are more than 10,000 add-ons in the Mozilla add-on gallery. Google's Chrome has recently enabled third-party add-ons and many Mozilla developers have ported their applications.

Add-ons and toolbars have long existed for Internet Explorer, but there has been a fundamental barrier to their widespread adoption -- the tools used to build add-ons and toolbars for Internet Explorer are also used by hackers to steal your information and infect your computer. Installing add-ons required that you install system software on your computer, and once you hit that button you were at the mercy of the software developer. Often they enticed you to hit the button by offering something useful like smiley face emoticons or access to games. Mozilla's Firefox built a sandboxing mechanism that keeps the add-ons separate from the operating system. Mozilla also has a good system of community policing that keeps the Mozilla community safe from malicious hackers.

Internet Explorer is the default browser for most users, so there has always been a desire to bring add-on features to Internet Explorer without requiring the user to install potentially malicious software on their computer. Enter Internet Explorer 8, with the concept of the Accelerator. Accelerators allow developers to interact with web pages that are rendered in your browser. The applications are completely sandboxed in the browser, and are only activated when you explicitly call for them. Hence, they are safe to install and use.

The Stinky Teddy Abracadabra Search Accelerator allows you to launch a search directly from a web page, either by highlighting terms on the page or by simply right clicking and selecting our accelerator. A little search preview box will pop up, so in many cases you can navigate directly to the page you are looking for. What I've described is pretty standard, but we've added a special ingredient. The Stinky Teddy Abracadabra Search accelerator uses the page you are currently visiting as context for your search. The concepts on the page are used as a frame of reference that guides us when we decided which search results to show you. The word "base" means different things if you are on a page about baseball or a page about furniture. Where you are helps us to know where you want to go. Although this idea is obvious, no other search engine uses this information. To be clear, we aren't tracking you -- all we use is your current screen to provide context. We don't save any information about you.

A second cool feature added to Internet Explorer 8 is Visual Search Suggestions. Firefox allows for search suggestions in a limited fashion (one line of text). After installing our Search Box Plugin we show you a preview of the search page as you type in your search query. Most search providers show query suggestions -- we show the search page. The search page preview we show has most of our usual content types (web, video, real-time, twitter, news), and the "buzzing" content is shown first. We wonder why other search engines don't show you search results as you type, and we suspect the answer is that this is a case where the business of search gets in the way of the user experience. The business of search is to show sponsored links above the search results. Search engines want you to go to their page, even when that step is unnecessary. Direct navigation from the search box makes more sense to us.

Check out our Internet Explorer 8 goodies and let us know what you think.

Visual Search Bar Plugin:



The French Trail

I'm currently training for the upcoming Oakland Marathon. Last weekend I needed to go for a long run in spite of a steady rain. I decided to do the French Trail -- if there is any trail that will make a run good on a miserable day it is the French Trail. Here's the GPS. I was surprised to several other runners out that day, all covered in mud, and all enjoying the rainy day in the forest.

For those of you not familiar with the French Trail, it's located in Redwood Regional Park. The park has 4 major north-south trails that are excellent for running (East Ridge Trail, Stream Trail, West Ridge Trail, and French Trail). The French Trail is by far the most difficult, but also the best. I think it is the best running trail in the East Bay. The French Trail hugs the eastern side of the mountain that forms the Oakland skyline. Becuase of this geography, it is able to support the few remaining redwood groves in the area (these are second generation trees -- all of the old growth was cut down to rebuild San Francisco in 1906). The trail has several micro-climates with bits of chapparal intersperesed with redwood rain forest.

The trail is quite difficult to reach. You need to hike about a mile the trail head (park at the skyline gate, and take the West Ridge Trail). In order to reach the best part of the trail (between Tres Sendas and Chown Trails), it requires a several mile hike or run from the parking lot. The best way to access this part of the trail is to park at the Redwood Bowl parking lot, and take the West Ridge Trail to either Tres Sendas or Chown.


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