Very cool tool

by Eszter Hargittai on June 16, 2005

I am constantly on the lookout for cool online tools. I just found one. I came upon it through, I think this set. One of these days I’ll get around to posting about what a cool tool that is in its own right.

But right now I want to tell you about YubNub. As its creator Jon Aquino explains, it is “a command-line for the web”. Impressively, it was his submission for a 24-hour programming contest.

What does it do? It helps you access search results on various sites directly. That is, say you want to search for a book on Amazon. As long as a command has already been created for searching on Amazon, you can simply enter the following in YubNub:
amazon booktitle
and you will be redirected to Amazon’s search results for “booktitle”. Or let’s say you want to search for an address on Google Maps, you can just enter:
gmaps address
and YubNub redirects you to the Google Maps result.

What is additionally great about YubNub is that if a command does not yet exist for your preferred search, you can add it.

To try it out, I created a command for searching the archives of Crooked Timber. If you go to YubNub and start your search query by typing in ct and then proceeding with whatever terms are of interest then you will be redirected to the results of your search here on CT.

So now you may be thinking: Well, that’s nice, but why would I bother going to to run the query instead of just going directly to the site where I want to run my search? Because you don’t have to go to Several people have written Firefox search plugins for YubNub. So assuming you use Firefox and have a search toolbar in your Firefox browser, you can just add this as an additional engine.[1] MOREOVER, because YubNub defaults to Google when you do not enter a specific command, you can just leave YubNub as the default engine in your toolbar and still use Google (assuming that’s of interest) for generic searches without commands.

The service is evolving. Its creator has some suggestions and it sounds like he continues to work on it. Unfortunately, there is no way to make corrections to typos in submitted command lines so for now that has to be handled through emails. It is also easy to see how some people may create numerous commands that are not very interesting to most people. But overall, it’s a great service, I recommend trying it out!

UPDATE: For those of you savvy Firefox users who are wondering how this adds to already existing features in Firefox I should mention Jon Aquino’s inspiration for creating this service: not having to replicate the same keywords on different machines. For those of us who use more than one machine this is very helpful. Thanks to YubNub, it’s enough to add it to the toolbar and you’re ready to go.

1. Far be it from me to assume that you do use Firefox. But this would be a good time to start.



Steve 06.16.05 at 4:38 pm

Eszter, in that example, if you have Firefox, why wouldn’t you just create a search keyword (right-click [control-click on a Mac] the “search this site” text box to the right, and choose “Add a Keyword for this Search”)? What’s the benefit to YubNub, except in getting people to expose more search-like functionality? (“random” seems pretty nice.)


Pablo Stafforini 06.16.05 at 4:44 pm

I’m trying to see how this tool differs from Firefox’s “Smart keywords”. Say you want to search Google images. Type in Firefox’s address bar, right click on the search box, and select “Add a keyword for this search”. Choose a short and memorable keyword like, er, ‘gim’, and voilà!, next time you enter ‘gim Porsche 911’ at the address bar you’ll see the results you would receive if you typed ‘Porsche 911’ in the Google images search box. This is, indeed, a very useful tool. But one that, as far as I can see, the Firefox user can enjoy without installing any additional program or extension.


Pablo Stafforini 06.16.05 at 4:46 pm

In case it isn’t obvious, I’m making exactly the same point as Steve. His post appeared online when I was writing mine.


SomeCallMeTim 06.16.05 at 4:57 pm

I think (I really don’t know) you might be able to build the same in Slick Run, which has the added advantage of being a command line/shortcut line for more than just the Internet. I mention it only because Slick Run is probably my favorite bit of free software.


Chris Lovell 06.16.05 at 5:05 pm

Some reasons to like YubNub:

1) I didn’t know about the smart keywords feature until I read this post; now that I know about it, it doesn’t seem any more convenient than YubNub.

2) Firefox isn’t the only browser I use. (And I’m not talking about internet explorer, either!) YubNub will be consistent across all browsers, without me having to set up a keyword for every specialized search in every browser I use.

3) YubNub has the potential to do more than searches.


Eszter 06.16.05 at 5:17 pm

I have added an update to the post noting the reason YubNub was created in the first place: not having to replicate keywords on numerous machines. For anyone who goes online on more than one machine – and in the least who doesn’t ever find themselves using a machine they did not configure at least once in a while? – it is helpful to have this service make site-specific searches so easily accessible.

Plus what Chris Lovell said.


Steve 06.16.05 at 6:53 pm

Pablo, tomorrow’s my turn in the barrel.

Chris and Eszter, point taken.


Tom Ames 06.16.05 at 10:45 pm

Sogudi has done this for Safari for awhile now.


ArC 06.17.05 at 1:37 am

Oh, this is sweet! I was just thinking how I wanted to trim down my search engine plugins for Firefox.


gzombie 06.17.05 at 3:31 am

Just a comment to say: Wow, that is cool!


Jack 06.17.05 at 3:40 am

I think it would be very helpful if there was somwhere online with which you could synchronise you bookmarks and other transportable settings. I’m astonished htat it hasn’t been done. Netscape could do it and give their product a reason to exist.


Andrew Brown 06.17.05 at 5:11 am

Opera has done this for a couple of years, so far as I remember. I have one search box at the top of th ewindow, which drops down to allow me to search 12 places for the same phrase. And I could do it in a sidebar if I preferred.


theCoach 06.17.05 at 8:26 am

You may be interested in MSN Desktop search, which does all of that and more from taskbar.

For example, if I type ctrl+shift+D on my computer it sets focus on the task bar. Then if I type “map home to 10 Main Street Anytown, MA, it will bring up Google maps and map the directions from My house to 10 Main Street.
It does this through shortcuts and scripting.
Additionally, you can search the web via MSN Search or Google, or whoever you prefer, or search your local network, assuming you have priveledges. Kind of handy.


Steve 06.17.05 at 6:08 pm

I think it would be very helpful if there was somwhere online with which you could synchronise you bookmarks and other transportable settings. I’m astonished htat it hasn’t been done. Netscape could do it and give their product a reason to exist.

There are any number of third party apps to do this; Firefox users can use Foxylicious and pull their bookmarks from their bookmarks (or, for the daring with access to a server, run their own installation of Scuttle for that use).


andrew cooke 06.18.05 at 7:48 am

maybe it’s just that i use a broken browser and not that cool one you mention (oh, wait, but i am using firefox!), but every link to that site is treated as an app to download, not a web page…


Jonathan Aquino 06.19.05 at 12:45 am

Hi Eszter – Thanks for sharing your experience with YubNub. I hope it will be useful to your readers!

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