Accelerator Spotlight

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Accelerator Spotlight

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Accelerators are a robust and customizable way of bringing you closer to the services you use most. We’ve said a lot about the technology behind Accelerators and how to build on it, but I thought it might be nice to step back for a minute and look at some of the things people have already built. So for the rest of this post, I’ll be throwing a few interesting Accelerators into the spotlight.

These are five Accelerators that I thought were notable in some way, either because they did something completely different than I ever thought of the feature doing, or because they do something particularly well.

Shareaholic

One of the distinctions we made when designing the Accelerator feature was service integration versus service aggregation. Loosely speaking, one could view the feature itself as being service aggregation, since it binds a bunch of services in one place, and each individual Accelerator as service integration, since it occupies a place in that aggregation feature.

Shareaholic (add) comes closer to service aggregation in its own right than almost any other Accelerator I’ve seen. Their team has a blog post describing it, but it essentially takes the user selection, link, or document and sends it to the Shareaholic service, which interfaces in turn with roughly 30 other services of varying kinds.

Shareaholic accelerator.  The preview window shows different services which can be used to share.

There are tradeoffs to this approach, of course, but I think Shareaholic is a good example of the kinds of aggregation possibilities that are possible with Accelerators.

Entertonement

Entertonement (add) is a very unique Accelerator. Essentially, it takes the user selection and returns audio clips based on that selection. The real distinguishing feature, however, is what it does with the preview window:

Entertonement Accelerator.  The preview window shows

Entertonement embeds a media player in the preview window and then plays the first audio clip returned by the user’s selection.

I think this Accelerator helps illustrate a class of preview window scenarios that I don’t think have been fully explored yet—namely, embedding outside content.

I could see a number of other applications for embedding a media player in the preview window, like music or video search services, some of which already have Accelerators. Given that the preview window can run ActiveX controls, the possibilities are virtually limitless, subject to the security restrictions we have in place for such controls.

Preview and Launch URL

Preview and Launch URL (add) fills one of the most-requested needs for Accelerators. It takes a user-selected URL and launches it. This alone is very useful, but what really sets this Accelerator apart is its use of the preview window.

It uses a service called WebSnapr to generate previews of web pages, which it then returns in the preview window. The end result is that you can see a page before you navigate to it:

We had created a “Launch URL” Accelerator for internal purposes, but the use of a thumbnail generator hadn’t occurred to us. As a result, I think this particular Accelerator really stands out.

Share with Facebook

Facebook (add) is another big service building on the Accelerator feature, and their “Share with Facebook” Accelerator deserves mention. You can activate the accelerator from the Page menu, which enables you to send whatever page you’re viewing to Facebook as an item to share with your friends. You can also right-click a link and share that, too.

This Accelerator is notable because it’s a good example of well-used document variables. Most of the Accelerators out there use selection context exclusively, perhaps not realizing that Accelerators can operate on links or the page as a whole, as well.

While selection context is definitely the “light-up” case for Accelerators, I think document context could be used to a greater degree than it currently is, and I think Facebook does a good job of doing so.

It’s also a good example of “bulk send” Accelerators, where the user selection is taken from a web page and shifted to the composition page of a service. Blogging and email would exhibit similar behavior, for example.

Shop and Save with Live Search Products

This Accelerator (add) manages to combine two of my favorite things in the world—saving time and saving money. As the Live Search blog explains, whereas a user normally would have had to copy a product term and then paste it into at least one shopping service somewhere, he or she can now just highlight that term and receive easy links to reviews and price comparisons.

In addition to its execution functionality, it makes very good use of the preview window, too, presenting the essential information to users inline.

Conclusion

I hope this post helped shine a little more light on a few Accelerators you may not have seen before. I also hope it may have helped you see some of the potential for Accelerators that may not be evident in the ones you use every day. The Accelerators above were notable for pushing the envelope in some way or another, and it’s my hope that users and developers like you will always continue pushing.

Thanks for reading!

Jon Seitel
Program Manager, Accelerators

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