Have you seen the Rocky films? Of course you have, everybody has. Well, imagine that instead of boxing, it was about web search, and instead of Sylvester Stallone, it starred Yahoo.
Who's with me?
Okay, okay, it doesn't sound like the most exciting film you'll ever see, but as a story there's a lot of parallels between Sylvester Stallone running up and down stairs, punching dead animals and mumbling stuff and Yahoo coming up with Axis.
When it came to the things Rocky Balboa and Yahoo became famous for — boxing and web search respectively — they had it, and they blew it, they lost it, and they want it back again.
Could Axis be Yahoo's fight with Apollo Creed?
With Axis, Yahoo is attempting to do something very different in search. Where Bing's pitch is ultimately "if you like Google but don't like Google, why not try our very Google-y thing that isn't Google?" the idea behind Axis is much more interesting.
It's essentially removing the familiar page of search results, replacing them with previews of the things it thinks you're looking for. Add in auto-complete, browser extensions and clever syncing with your iOS devices and you've got a rather nifty way of finding stuff online.
It's pretty slick, especially on the iPad; on a slow laptop connected to the world's worst broadband, which I am just now, it isn't so good. But it's interesting, and that's a great thing, because Yahoo's asking whether the current way of doing things is the best way, or if we're just doing it because, hey! That's how we've always done it.
Remember having to use operators to get the right results from AltaVista and HotBot? Ask people to do that today and they'll smack you with their laptop.
The odds of Yahoo actually usurping Bing, let alone Google, are astronomical - not least because Yahoo has a habit of hiring really smart people or buying really smart businesses, promising them the Earth and then locking them in a dungeon instead of investing in and supporting their products - and I'm sure if Axis took off Yahoo would soon plaster it with ads, but Yahoo's come out swinging. It's not a knockout product yet, but if Yahoo sticks with it, it could be.