Yahoo has joined the browser wars with Axis, its very own tool designed to enhance its search with a clear eye toward the rapidly expanding mobile Web.
Axis, the company announced late Wednesday, is a stand-alone app currently available for Apple mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad and on desktops as an add-on to established browsers like Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
Yahoo special project director Ethan Batraski wrote on the company's search blog that "with a mobile-first focus," the company "set out to completely re-think and re-design how users search and browse the Web."
The result was Axis, a visual-rich tool that aims to combine searching and browsing into one experience. On mobile devices, a query returns thumbnail images of actual Web pages instead of a list of links. People can use the touchscreen to scroll and choose a page.
Early reviews have been positive for the mobile version of the tool, which addresses the rising percentage of time Web users spend accessing the Internet on phones and tablets.
"Mobile is where the action is, so it makes sense that Yahoo threw the bulk of its development love into the tablet and smartphone versions," wrote CNET's Rafe Needleman. "On the iPad, Axis is simply a great browser. The integrated search feature is intuitive, and being able to move through search results without having to go back to search makes sense. After only a few minutes using it I thought, Why hasn't Google done this yet? It's that good."
A pull-down feature lets users flip back and forth between a Web page and their search results. It also features search bookmarking and integration with Pinterest.
Users can also integrate Axis among multiple devices, saving a personal homepage and searches on phone, tablet and desktop computers. The tool's main page also shows "trending" searches at any given time.
On the desktop version, Axis appears as a small search box in the bottom left corner of the browser window, allowing people to keep using whatever browser they like.
The unveiling of Axis comes as Yahoo is trying to jockey for position among the big three of Web search -- Google, Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo Search.
Google controls about 64% of the search market, according to March numbers from Experian Hitwise. Yahoo (which is powered by Bing) had about 16% of the market, while Bing itself accounted for another 14%.
E.B. Boyd, of Fast Company, writes that the release of Axis marks a new charge in the browser wars, as all three companies work to revamp, and redefine, Web search.
"The three leaders in this space have each realized that the conventional paradigms for search, architected over a decade ago when bandwidth was low, few people used the Web for more than research, and almost all computing was done at desktops, no longer work in an age of mobile apps, multiple devices, big data, and ever greater expectation on the part of the consumer that working online is about getting things done, not just perusing documents."