Years ago, I had the honor and joy of advising a startup company in California that had created a visual tool for exploring the Web. The results of a search were displayed graphically, clustered by type, and this tool allowed users to see relationships that were hidden from view in text-based linear searches. This tool (Grokker) did not last, unfortunately, but there are some new tools that come close to some of the features of this ground-breaking product. I particular, I recently found Envionto (http://en.vionto.com). This web-based tool lets you enter a search term, and produces a map showing search results based on categories it has gleaned from the content of each site it has found.
For example, a search on Android produced results in several categories ranging from Science and Technology to People. Clicking on any of the circles provides more information, and dragging a circle to the text box under the search term produces a refined search. The result is that you can not only drill down to the specific information you want, you can also visually browse through the informational space.
This tool is one of many tools for visualizing information – and this is an area that deserves a lot of attention as we all succumb to the flood of data that often hides the very things we are looking for.
Congratulations to these folks for addressing a real problem with grace.