Cooliris: Web Browsing For The 22nd Century

The possibilities of browsing Internet content nowadays is pretty much endless. There is such a range of web browsers out there that it gives you a headache deciding between them all. Given the recent explosion of smartphones and tablets such as Apple’s iPad in recent years, web browsing has been made mobile. In today’s technology-obsessed world, if you’re cut off from the Internet, you’re just about cut off from life itself.

Yet given all these new-fangled browsers, the actual way of internet browsing hasn’t really changed over the years. Take Google for example. Apart from the odd tweak here and there, the world’s most popular search engine looks pretty much the same as it did several years ago, where it was competing among the likes of Altavista, Lycos and Yahoo.

Yes, if it isn’t broken then don’t fix it. However, you’d think there would be a more intuitive way of browsing through images and videos. I certainly do. And this is where Cooliris comes in. Believe it or not, it’s actually a browser plug-in rather than a standalone app, and what a plug-in it is. It is, for the time being anyway, the best way to browse interactive media such as pictures, videos and games on the Internet.

However it doesn’t stop there. Cooliris could even become your first port of call when it comes to checking the news, getting inspiration for a photo or simply while away an hour or so browsing the news. Let’s have a look at it in more detail.

Introduction

Cooliris is a browser plug-in for Firefox, Safari and Chrome (check your OS before you install though, as some browsers are only supported on certain operating systems). To appreciate it to the full, you’ll need a pretty up-to-date computer as well.

3D Wall home

The home page of Cooliris

Once you’ve installed the plug-in and restarted your browser, you are directed to the home page, which gives you an overview of Cooliris’s features. It’ll also give you the option to sign up for an account, which allows you to customise your favourites in the program.

Cooliris Introduction

The welcome page after you've signed up to Cooliris

Features

Cooliris works with a wide range of websites, including Facebook, Google Images, YouTube and Flickr, and offers a deeper multimedia experience than you are used to. Once you’ve installed the plugin, you’ll see a little icon in your browser allowing you to quickly launch it from whichever website you are on.

Cooliris - launch

The little grid icon on the top right of your browser allows you to launch Cooliris from wherever you are

If you are currently browsing a website that Cooliris supports (such as Facebook or Flickr), you can hit the Cooliris icon to bring up what you are currently looking at in the Cooliris view, saving the need for you to launch it and enter your search enquiry again. This connection with other websites makes it very easy to use. Cooliris also features a fullscreen mode, which means you can browse without any distractions getting in your way.

Channels

On the left-hand side of the program, there is a menu labelled as Channels which gives you easy access to all the features of Cooliris. Here you can access pictures via LiveShare, Cooliris’s own photo sharing service, online TV and video services, music, news and online games.

Cooliris view

Viewing the top photos of the day in LiveShare using Cooliris

Clicking on a piece of media content brings up a more detailed view about it, and you can mark it as a favourite (if you have a Cooliris account, which is free), go to the original web page or share it on various social networks.

Cooliris view full

Viewing a piece of media content in full

3D Wall

Probably the nicest feature of Cooliris is the scrolling feature. If you want to search through a grid of media content, you simply click on the blue bar on the bottom of the screen, which scrolls through your photos like a 3D wall.

Cooliris 3D Wall

The 3D Wall feature in Cooliris

The further you move the bar to the right (or left), the faster the scrolling is.

My Computer

If you’re fed up with Windows Explorer or Mac OS X Finder, you can also use Cooliris to view media content on your hard drive. Cooliris however does not cache any data and if you’ve got a lot of photos or songs on your computer like me, it can take a long time to display them all.

News

Cooliris can also be used as a great way to quickly flick through the headlines to find out the goings-on in the world. Instead of having to subscribe to or search for news websites, Cooliris will pull articles from popular news websites and display them under certain categories (for example headlines, sport, world news and lifestyle). To carry on reading an article further, you simply click on the link to the page in Cooliris.

Cooliris news

Browsing through the headlines is made easy in Cooliris

Problems

Although Cooliris is a great tool, there are a couple of problems with it. When you are searching through images (say through Google Image search), the resolution of some photos can be a bit pixelated, which can make picking out individual photos quite difficult.

Cooliris pixalation

Some images can come up quite blurry in Cooliris, making them difficult to see

The second major disadvantage of the program is its overall stability. Whilst testing Cooliris for this review (in Firefox 6 on my Mac), I experienced several force-closes and freezes. I don’t know whether this is down to the actual browser or Cooliris; however it can be a little unstable. Please feel free to let us know in the comments if you have had different experiences on other browsers or operating systems.

Conclusion

Cooliris is an absolutely great browser extension and its wide range of features and attractive price (i.e. free) make it a worthwhile tool for all kinds of Internet users. But, the overall stability of the program has to be addressed for it to become a vital internet tool. Having said that, though, the built-in features are great and the interface is not only intuitive but as beautiful as it could be.

Cooliris is a program that shows really what your browser is capable of, and is a great role model for future programs. The extension fully deserves its score of 8 out of 10, but I’m still waiting in hope for the its stability to improve!


Summary

A browser extension for Firefox, Safari and Chrome that allows deep, rich multimedia browsing.

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