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AOL Joins Search Shortcuts Game

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News.com reports that AOL Search is joining the search shortcuts game with the release of AOL Snapshots.

Gerry Campbell, vice president and general manager of search for AOL, calls them "rocket science and smart editorial."

I'll also call it catch-up on AOL's part with other web search players. Most have been offering shortcuts for more than a year.

Search shortcuts come in two basic flavors. Either a direct answer found at the top of the results page or direct links to specialized databases and other content. In some cases, shortcuts are triggered with a specific piece of syntax or by interpreting the query.

The News.com article mentions that AOL Snapshots are, "categories of popular information, such as movie times, news and sports scores, which will appear in the body of related search results."

Snapshots offer direct links to info, specific facts at the top of the results page, or an interactive web-based tools.

Here's a complete list of what AOL offers.

A good idea? Yes! Shortcuts can save a searcher time, clicks, and aggravation. They can also help by leading the searcher to high quality info and also allow companies (Time Warner and Yahoo are examples) to leverage content and promo other services they provide.

Search shortcuts might also also offer an early glimpse at how web engines will become answer engines (for certain types of queries) in the future.

Other Players
Here are a few, just a few, examples of what other search companies offer.

+ Ask Jeeves has been online with MANY shortcuts (what they call Smart Search) for more than 18 months. Examples include:
+ Basic biographical info for newsmakers and celebrities
+ Local info (with direct links to key web sites)
+ Answers to questions (for certain queries)
You can find info about other Smart Search shortcuts here and here.

+ Yahoo has also been ramping up on shortcuts during the last year. Examples include:
+ Sports Scores
+ Movie Times
+ Time Info
+ Gas Prices
+ Exchange Rates
+ Calculator and measurement converter.
AllTheWeb (now part of Yahoo) was the first major engine to offer a web-based calculator (4/2003). Here's a full list of Yahoo's shortcuts.

+ Google also offers several shortcuts.
Examples include:
+ News Headlines (via a Google One Box)
+ Flight Tracking
+ Calculator and conversions.
A list of what Google offers is available here.

As I mentioned yesterday, MSN's new beta also provides direct answers and links for cetain query types.


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