Snap Preview Anywhere is Web 2.0 kudzu

Snap Preview Anywhere is Web 2.0 kudzu

Summary: I think one of my biggest gripes in the Web 2.0 world (and something I'll write in greater detail another time), is the idea that just because you can do something...

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TOPICS: Browser
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I think one of my biggest gripes in the Web 2.0 world (and something I'll write in greater detail another time), is the idea that just because you can do something...you should. A perfect example of this is well illustrated in a great blog entry by Jeremy Keith entitled "The tyranny of mouseover" (via Daring Fireball - Thanks John). It addresses the Snap Preview Anywhere (SPA) technology which is literally invading the web like kudzu...the plant that ate the south. It's pretty...but invasive.

In Snap's own words:

Snap Preview Anywhere is a tool for site owners to provide a sticky and informative experience for your users. And it's free!

What is Snap Preview Anywhere? Snap Preview Anywhere enables anyone visiting your site to get a glimpse of what other sites you're linking to, without having to leave your site. By rolling over any link, the user gets a visual preview of the site without having to go there, thus eliminating wasted "trips" to linked sites.

Here's what's wrong with it. It initially seems like a clever idea, with nothing but benefit to the publisher and the reader. In fact, if you just described it to me, I'd likely be impressed with the idea and think it was better than sliced cheese. However, the execution of it is where it fails...and as we all know...it is hard to compete with cheese that is sliced.

The problem is that it is intrusive and annoying. For the longest time I didn't even know I could turn the feature off (more on that later), which means that by default, any site you visit that incorporates this technology, forces it on you. You are automatically opt-in without even having the initial choice to enable it.

Is it Useful? 

"SPA is an efficiency tool - it saves time for the reader, and that's a good thing for the publisher. I like it so much I put it on TechCrunch."
-Michael Arrington, Editor, TechCrunch.com 

 -----

"By rolling over any link, the user gets a visual preview of the site without having to go there, thus eliminating wasted "trips" to linked sites."
-Snap 

I don't see how this tool saves time for anyone. There is certainly an art to linking, and part of that art is creating links within your writing to strengthen your point or argument. This means that a good writer doesn't create useless links, which means there are no wasted "trips." Plus, if you create worthless links, you likely won't have anyone to visit your site anyway.

The visual previews aren't easy to see or read, so if you are linking to additional text to bolster your writing, the preview does you little good. Take a look at this screenshot and the text that accompanies the SPA pop-up from Techcrunch:

"Someone has already created a wordpress plugin for the functionality as well, which makes installation easier."


Screenshot is Actual Size

Now how does this pop-up preview help increase the value of that text? Does the preview give you any additional insight into the post or this particular passage? Of course not. You already understand the context of the text and the visual preview adds no value at all. Even if you could read it it is likely that you'd gain no additional knowledge and it would then just serve as a distraction from the post. If you are a publisher and you rely on words and language, nothing interrupts the experience for your readers more than some window that just pops up.

Efficiency
Can someone show me proof that this tool actually improves efficiency? With the advent of tabbed browsing, I constantly just open new tabs behind the current one while I'm reading something. That way I get the benefit of visiting the supporting links later, without interrupting the flow of my reading.

This is not an efficiency tool. This is an annoyance.

And it's free!
Well of course it is. Who would pay for this feature?

 

No offense to Snap, I like their search engine, but this just seems to be one of those solutions in search of a problem.

[Note: To turn off this feature on any site, you can either visit their FAQ or when you visit a site with the Snap Preview Anywhere window,  look for the "Options" link. It will give you the ability to turn it off for that particular site or all sites.]

Topic: Browser

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4 comments
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  • Agreed.

    Just one more Nuisance 2.0 feature being thrust upon us in the pretense of being 'super-cool web 2.0'.

    These things are as bad as, or worse than, the IntelliText pop-up ads infecting so many sites. Steams my grits when I'm trying to get to a nav link and hit 15 of those stupid popup ads as my mouse travels across a page.

    I thought at one point that the CoolIris previews extension for Firefox was pretty handy/cool too ... until I enabled it for a day. It didn't last a second day.

    But I guess at the end of the day it all really comes down to trying to find cool new things to do with old technology. And there are bound to be some fumbles on the way to glory, right?
    Henaway
  • Snap Preview Anywhere Response

    Hello Alan,

    Its true most 'seasoned' web surfers know about tabbed browsing and shortcuts, but keep in mind that there are still many people online that don?t use tabbed browsing (and IE7 was literally just released with tab support), so its still a new thing to many. The SPA product enables a large population of less hard-core end users to quickly get a 'visual sense' of a selection of links on a site or blog.

    We are committed to making SPA a useful feature for both the site owner and end user. Rest assured that all viewpoints have been, and will continue to, inform the ongoing development of this product.

    The majority of the criticism of SPA has come from the veteran bloggers and techno pundits. I think what is happening is that SPA is partially breaking these folks ingrained expectation of interaction with hyperlinks. Hyperlinks as an HTML entity have not changed much since the beginning of the world-wide-web. What we are trying to do (initially I believe we are on the right track) is to present a whole ecosystem surrounding the 'link' in question. Right now its just a preview, but in the near future it could be the more (ex. num of diggs, related links or search queries, etc).

    Admittedly its not a product for everyone, however, we are acutely aware of the issues described by people that ARE using it and have several enhancements scheduled to release over the coming couple of weeks that will address them in some form.

    Regardless of these planned improvements, SPA is still gaining mass popularity every day. There are literally thousands(!) of people signing up for SPA on a daily basis AND we have served more than 150+ million previews since the launch of the product in November 2006.

    Thanks for your attention.

    Jason Fields
    Product Evangelist, Emerging Technology
    www.Snap.com
    jasonATsnap
    • My response...

      Thanks for commenting, Jason.

      Here's my beef with SPA as it currently stands. While it does seem that there may be potential for this technology, I think the first iteration of it is half-baked and perhaps instead of just rolling it out for thousands of publishers...and even more readers to become unintended beta-testers, a better approach would have been a smaller test bed and also ensuring that the option to use the service was opt-in...by choice. I can't stand going to a site and being subjected to a technology that leaves me...out of the process.

      Next...it really adds no current value other than eye candy. The visual previews are two small. I do like the idea that these previews might contain other types of information in the future...but currently...I just find it useless.

      As for this part of your comment:

      [i]The majority of the criticism of SPA has come from the veteran bloggers and techno pundits. I think what is happening is that SPA is partially breaking these folks ingrained expectation of interaction with hyperlinks. Hyperlinks as an HTML entity have not changed much since the beginning of the world-wide-web. What we are trying to do (initially I believe we are on the right track) is to present a whole ecosystem surrounding the 'link' in question.[/i]

      I have no ingrained expectations and I'm not some curmudgeon in a cave. And...it isn't just tech pundits. I'm seeing a lot of chatter from experts in usability...who feel the same way that I do. I applaud trying to push the boundaries...but I just don't think this is particular service is ready. I think if you address my complaints, which are echoes of others...you'll likely have a solid product on your hand.
      agraham999
  • Snap Preview Anywhere Response (Second)

    Alan,

    No offense on the 'ingrained' expectations paragraph, all I was emphasizing is that our product by nature is breaking an expected convention of hyperlinks, but, even though many are put off by this, IMHO its something that is still of great use and that people will see value in the near future.

    To outline a little about the future of the Snap Preview Anywhere product, we are acutely aware of the issues described by people commenting like yourself and have several enhancements scheduled to release over the coming couple of weeks that will address them. I think you will like them based upon your last comment on the products evolution.


    Some of these enhancements are:

    (1) Making improvements that will reduce the confusion about whether a link is SPA enabled, or not.
    (2) Make it much easier for a site owner to point SPA to a particular type of link to use SPA.
    (3) Allow the site owner to totally customize the SPA bubble, css, link behavior preferences, etc.

    We look forward to your continued feedback and support in the near future.

    Jason Fields
    Product Evangelist, Emerging Technology
    www.Snap.com
    jasonATsnap