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Startups get social with browser extensions

HayStaks and Wajam extensions bring social hooks to search results.

HeyStaksWajam.pngAs Google and Bing try to increase reach in a battle over who displays what social elements in search results, search engine add-ons are emerging to bring all social network results together.

Start-up HeyStaks Technologies launched its social search Firefox extension March 2 at the DEMO Spring 2011 conference. The extension works in tandem with established engines, displaying social results in a section above the regular search results. The product is built around “staks,” which are described in a company press release:

Users can create “search staks,” collections of the best Web pages from a group of users on a particular topic; these “staks” can be made public and easily shared with colleagues and friends via email, Twitter, etc., or kept private or shared on an invite-only basis.

The product provides an effective solution for users who share a common goal or shared interest, allowing them to search the web in a collaborative fashion using mainstream search engines, to make their searches much more effective by keeping the content relevance of results high.

Example of a HeyStak stak
An example of a HeyStak “search stak”

Another startup, Wajam, also recently launched a search extension. Wajam scours networks like Facebook, Twitter and Delicious and results are displayed horizontally across the top of search results.

Example of a Wajam result
A Wajam search result

The Wajam site says they’re currently “oversubscribed,” but several reviewers have mentioned if you send them a tweet (@wajam) requesting a subscription, or like them on Facebook, the wait isn’t too long.

HeyStaks is available as a Firefox add-on and an iPhone app. The Wajam extension is available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer. Apps for the iPhone and Android are pending.

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  • ThuH

    I’m not crazy about these two.
    I think HeyStaks is confusing at best. It seems like it takes a lot of effort (from my end) for it to learn what I like.
    My preference is with Wajam, though I wonder who really spends all that much time on the search result page any more.
    Frankly, I want more from my search engine than just social or SEO based. That’s why I’m loving kikin at the moment. (www.kikin.com). It only searches (socially) Twitter and Facebook, but makes up for it by bringing better relevant contents from around the web. It really de-cluttered my browser and simplified my life.

  • http://www.heystaks.com Maurice Coyleq

    (Disclosure: I’m Head of Product at HeyStaks)

    The power of HeyStaks is that it provides social search at the topic level so that when you join a stak, you collaborate anonymously with people who share your interests. When you join and get a browser or mobile app, HeyStaks can recommend staks to join (with a single click) based on the queries you use, while creating a stak is as simple as choosing a name and 2 clicks.

    While grabbing links from Twitter/Facebook/etc is useful in some scenarios, it assumes (a) I know someone who’s interested in the same stuff I am, (b) I trust their judgement on those topics and (c) they’ve taken the time to post a link about this shared topic to Twitter/Facebook/wherever. I don’t know about your connections, but i’d be waiting a while to get any links related to the vagaries of XPCOM programming in Javascript from my friends on Facebook. And I trust Barry’s (one of the co-founders of HeyStaks) opinions on social search and academic research but let’s just say we differ when it comes to musical taste!

    While HeyStaks lets me collaborate with friends & family (I have staks for both), usually when i’m searching the Web I just want relevant links from someone in the know. Take a community of people interested in a particular topic (i.e. a stak), sprinkle in a dash of reputation-awareness and HeyStaks delivers high-quality relevant results tailored to your interests, directly within Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

    And with our iPhone app available for free on the App store and Android support to follow, you get to synchronise your searches across devices so you can search lazier (i.e. you only have to type a few terms to get results that may have taken multiple searches and more terms on the desktop).

    Thuh, do you mind me asking where you work?

    Laters,
    Maurice

  • ThuH

    Hi Maurice,

    I’m currently a college student studying graphics.

    I appreciate your quick response, and I really want to like HeyStak but I find it confusing and frustrating. I’m not getting the social results I want. As a matter of fact I have yet to get any social results in my search. I keep getting suggestions of staks to join but see nothing else after I join these staks. It’s taking way too long to learn my preferences and that is its major downfall for me.

    On top of that it seems to be slowing down my browser and search engine. And unfortunately I don’t have the patience to try it for longer.

  • http://www.heystaks.com Maurice Coyle

    Hi ThuH,
    Cheers for replying, good to hear from you again. The good news is that as a college student, HeyStaks is perfect for you. The better news is that there’s some simple things you can do to start searching less and finding more!

    The first thing you can do is create one or more staks related to your college courses. Invite your classmates to join and when you search the Web for pages related to your course content / assignments, you’ll be able to collaborate anonymously straight away. We’ve found that it doesn’t take a long time to build up overlapping search histories in small groups like college classes, especially right when you’re all searching on a new assignment / lecture topic so you’ll start to see recommendations almost instantly.

    Next, you can try finding some staks related to your interests on heystaks.com using our search feature. There’s staks on startups, social media, humour, photography, world news, graphic design, movies, music, gadgets, travel, Apple lovers, Apple haters, AJAX, Drupal, disneyland, the list goes on and on.

    It sounds like you’ve been recommended staks to join within Google, which is great; being part of these search networks is the first step to a better search life. On the issue of being recommended staks that don’t contain recommendations for your current query, what version of the browser app are you using? The most recent release should only recommend staks that can help with your current query. If you tell me what query you entered and what stak was recommended I can look into it for you.

    Regarding browser clutter, if you don’t like the “toolbar mode” of the browser app on Firefox, you can click the HeyStaks logo on the left of the toolbar, choose “Switch to Lite mode” and the browser app will occupy only a small space up beside the built-in search box. HeyStaks features like tagging, voting, sharing, etc, can be accessed by right-clicking anywhere on a Web page. The latest version should also be less intensive on your browser / search engine so it should be faster, too.

    Finally, are you a Chrome user? If so, you can check out our alpha release for Chrome, available at: http://www.heystaks.com/chrome

    Huge thanks for the feedback, it’s really useful to hear what may be preventing our users from seeing the full benefits of web search to the power of shared, so please keep passing on your thoughts and issues! You can also tweet the team at @heystaks / me at @mauricecoyle

    Stay in touch!
    Maurice