Kosmix.com – Table of Contents for the Web

From kosmix.com video

My roots are in books. I ran a chain of retail bookstores in the ’80’s, became a buyer at a wholesaler responsible for making fiction and non-fiction merchandising decisions for dozens of national chains, and eventually evolved to publishing. As the web emerged one of the obvious shortcomings I observed was when you landed on a home page you had no idea what was behind it. How much content was on that site? How valuable would it be? With a book you can hold it, touch it, and thumb its pages to gauge the quality of information or entertainment value. It has a table of contents and an index. Sites simply try to lure you in.

Web sites have their navigation and labeling and even the blurb about what the site is trying to do, but this frontier was very new and frequently in the hands of almost anyone with a computer and internet connection. In that rests the web’s strength and weakness. Fast forward to today. The web has come so far. 2.0 is here and although I won’t say it is reaching maturity, it is growing up pretty darn fast. Remember, I’m used to the printed word which stretches back to the 1400’s.

But search changed everything. Correction, Google changed everything with search and some may have thought the rest was history. Think again. I have been spending some time with kosmix.com over the past few days and I’ve got to say that it has serious potential.

The kosmix.com official promise is “The web organized for you.” It’s a big promise, and maybe not too far off, which in a way makes me cringe because the web is so full of gossip and mainstream; media soft-brained vox populi… (sorry, I’ll get back on topic). After pressing return you are greeted with a simple statement, “What’s happening on the web: March 16, 2009” along with a very nicely designed page stuffed full of information, but not overwhelming to scan. They have a search field at the top like Google, however you are immediately drawn into the page. The section headings down the power aisle are:

  • Top News
  • Popular Entertainment
  • Just for laughs
  • Images of the Day
  • Daily Deals

Each one of these sections has a tab structure that allows the user to quickly scan the top sites in each category. Here is the Popular Entertainment tab line, covering network television in Hulu, the user generated content of YouTube and Vimeo and music from Rhapsody.

Conent navigation example

On the right hand stack they port in these modules.

  • Hot in the Kosmos
  • Trending Topics – Taken from twitter.com
  • Top Links on Twitter – Published by twitturly.com
  • Hot Search Trends – From google.com
  • Lucky Dip – Celebrity watch from people.com
  • An untitled accordion navigation section
  • Feeling Browsy? – Kosmos created categories

This is where kosmix.com becomes a giant collection of social media, and distinguishes itself from Google. Without a doubt, “Hot in the Kosmos” is the most interesting section. When you click on any of the topics listed there you are whisked to a wonderfully structured page that is at once highly relevant, broad reaching and unexpected. Here is how they describe the content behind this section.

The Kosmos brings you hot topics by looking at the latest stories on the web. To put it another way, these topics are machine created and not editorially selected. Explore and enjoy!

When you submit a query they tell you they are “building your guide” vs. “returning results” (1-10 of about 366,000,000). They organize the information in the following manner.

  • At a Glance
  • Topic Highlight
  • Web Search
  • News and Blogs
  • Videos
  • Audio
  • Conversations
  • Reference

Very thorough approach and it allows the user to select how they want to consume the information. This is a partial screen shot from the “Hot in the Kosmos” page created after clicking on the link Ben Bernanke. If you don’t see anything in this container of the home page you are interested in, you can always enter your own search from that section. Depending on what you enter, you could get back additional information, such as maps.

Sample guide page from Hot in the Kosmos

By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a site say they were “beta-ish” and in “alpha” at the same time. Clearly they are working on all sections at once and labeling it appropriately. Love the transparency and the understanding the need to set expectations for the user.

So this is a long way to arrive at support for the title of this post. Kosmix.com is indeed a table of contents for the web. It is the best attempt so far at showing me what’s on the web without having to navigate through it. You can drag components within the two columns up an down to personalize it, but for some reason, not across the stacks. You can’t shrink the size of the modules either, which is annoying at times. I don’t need to see the deal of the day from woot.com that big in the browser window. The “Feeling Browsy” section didn’t seem to work at all, which was a disappointment. But I love where they’re going, and I’ll be watching with interest and hope as they evolve this ambitious and potentially important concept. From a book guy turned web enthusiast, I say well done.

Apple’s Site Search Drives Brand Consideration Through Prospect Experience

Apple has always been one of my favorite brands as well as my first choice in computers. I have long admired their web site for how on brand it is, the clean look, crisp copy and easy navigation. My one criticism is that it doesn’t even try to remember me. They never present a home page informed by where I have gone on their site or what I may have purchased from them (and it has been a lot over the years). The same can be said for their email marketing programs. Not a premium placed on targeting the content to me. Great emails to look at, but rarely do I click through and browse or buy. However, their site search capability has caused me to think about overlooking those shortcomings. If you visit the Apple site they have the normal search box in the upper right hand section of the page. Looks like what you see everywhere. But when you start typing everything is different.


I started typing in iPhone. As I was typing a flyout appeared immediately below the box, populated with real time search results that changed with each letter typed. But these search results look more like a web page or a software window. They are categorized, contain descriptions and images, and in some cases prices are displayed. You can always link to a full results page, which is also improved over a normal search results page.


Here is what I got when I typed in iTunes. If you key in something that is not on the site it says “no shortcut was found” and directs you to another page where you might get a “did you mean” suggestion. This is similar to how the Spotlight feature built into their software works.


This experience enhancement gives consumers yet another glimpse into what it is like to own a Mac before owning one. Apple understands how important it is to manage the customer experience (or perhaps prospect experience, as their market share is still small) at every interaction. This is particularly important online, as consumers have a short attention span and are jaded quickly if something doesn’t work or live up to their expectations. Obviously this is much easier to accomplish when you are searching your own site and products vs. the open Internet. But Apple has executed with elegance in design. Apple is now the third largest manufacturer of computers behind HP and Dell. In their stores they have all but eliminated the cash register, as the advisers on the floor can use a hand held device to ring your purchase and email you a receipt. Seems they are always about bringing innovation to someone else’s expertise.