Search for Life Signs at WebBrain

SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - Does the world really need one more search engine?

A smarter one, perhaps, where might you find more intelligent search assistance than at the Web's brain?

In fact, a new service called WebBrain is designed to help you view and organize search results more effectively.

At's WebBrain, categories and Web pages display in a dynamic connection of linked icons. Click one icon, and it moves to center. Graphical links show you how a category is linked to other categories. For instance, I clicked a link for "recipes," then "fish and seafood," and I saw links to methods of preparation. But it also showed fishing, which took me in a completely different direction.

The service acts as a front-end to Netscape's Open Directory Project. Each entry in the project's database is checked by an editor, Yahoo-like, although the editors are just plain folks. In fact, you too can become an editor in an area of the site you'd like to maintain. Here's one clear benefit: WebBrain tends to show more information in a smaller space than most sites. Information appears all around the interface, rather than simply running down the page.

Just a Pretty Interface?

On the other hand, once you click several levels deep into the interface, the first category icon you clicked no longer appears. You have to click a category listing several times to get back to where you started (or click the Back button on your browser). A simple set of text links would be less flashy, but more effective.

The service has its charms, but the Open Directory Project isn't yet quite as helpful as those at AltaVista, HotBot, or Google, among others. A search for "PC World" showed three articles from Wired magazine as the top results, and some were three years old. Hmm. In other searches, I also found many irrelevant entries, often mixed in with newsgroup postings. That won't save me time, and it hurts my brain. A couple of years back, I reviewed a personal version of The Brain, a file management utility for Windows. I couldn't see replacing Windows Explorer with the tool, but as a Web searcher, the Brain makes more sense.

Perhaps in time, this brain will become more useful, because its interface and implementation have promise.

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