Sortfix tries a different approach to improving search – suggesting better search terms

It’s interesting that TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington kicked off a debate today about the current problems with search. Because it’s clear that while few players feel able to take on the might of Google, there remaina a few startups out there trying to attack the problem from different angles.

One of them is Israeli startup SortFix, who I met on a recent trip to Tel Aviv in Israel (more on that soon).

Previously, SortFix tried concentrating its search functionality directly through its website and through its iPad app. But now SortFix has created a FireFox extension for Google which makes use of SortFix’s algorithms to generate suggested words to improve your search. It’s still in beta but you can try it here.

The effect is like having a smarter person sitting over your shoulder saying “hey, if you add this extra word to the search terms you may get what you want”. Small plus and minus buttons (when hovered over with the mouse) help you tweak the terms.

The FireFox extension also has a feature their site or iPad app doesn’t have – such as the ability to specifically exclude suggested words from a search query – this is something a simple Google search actually can’t do.

These suggestions can be added in or taken away to improve the results. But SortFix isn’t playing around with Google’s results. Instead it is giving the user more control over deciding which ‘power words’ are relevant and whether to use them or not. The extension also works with Google Instant as well as Google News, Videos, Books, Blogs, Realtime and e-commerce.

IE and Chrome versions are coming soon and there are also plans to expand the add-on to work with Bing and Amazon.

SortFix was co-founded in March 2009 by CEO Amir Lavi and CTO Yohay Barsky – who may well be sitting on a neat idea which search engines would do well to take note of.