Companies big and small are moving things forward, experimenting with searches based on complex sentences, images and audio, mashing up mobile search with location data, and aiming to make results more useful than the traditional list of blue links.

One approach is to show results in a more visual style. Viewzi, for example, has a number of options, including viewing results from Flickr as a photo thumbnail cloud; viewing thumbnails of web pages found by Google, Ask, Yahoo and Live Search on one page; and viewing news results from Google News in the style of a newspaper front page. Seachme, which recently raised $31 million in funding, also presents its results as a series of web screenshots, mimicking the iTunes Cover Flow look.

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