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Web Search Visualization & Fractal Maps


KartOO fractal search. Click to enlarge.There is a growing trend in using connectivity-visualization mapping when web searching. Search engines such as KartOO and TouchGraph Google Browswer, attempt to show the linkage among web sites/pages by web-like 2-D graphics, where colors and icon-sizes indicate the strength of the site linkages. The effect can be described best as a "concept map", with nodes representing sites, and connections between nodes representing links. Of the two engines, KartOO is much more visually interesting. (I have included screen shots produced by each engine in a search for "fractal".)

Whether this enhances the search experience is debatable - at present. While KartOO’s pr claims that the non-linear nature of the way information is distributed on the internet should be matched in the non-linear nature of the visualization, so far I haven’t seen anything that makes me want to switch from Clusty, which does a great job of organizing themes in web searches, and provides the links/themes in a nice old-fashioned list.

I find the same lack of compelling features for the Touch Graph Google Browser. I should note that TouchGraph is a company that designs custom-tailored visual search features for other companies and projects, with a focus on "creating tools that enable decision makers to display, navigate, and analyze complex data simply and intuitively…Individuals and organizations have more vital information at their fingertips than ever before. Traditional search engines provide a way to sift through this data. However, the greatest insights can be achieved not by sifting, but by looking at the big picture to see how items are connected."


TouchGraph fractal search. Click to enlarge.I’m still underwhelmed by what the visual engines do that’s better than Clusty. They do produce some fascinating, kinetic displays, because nodes and connections expand when clicking on different parts of the graphic display, and various pop-ups appear with further detail about the sites. Because clicking often produces new sets of nodes, there is a fractal-like quality to the search map. I can see the efficacy of such a search for different types of data, or business functions, but I doubt that they will become the main search option for an ordinary web search.