Yahoo has made a lot of big mistakes over the years, and today it finds itself in the fight of its life to stay relevant on the modern web.

The big questions: what can Yahoo do to recapture some of its past glory, if anything at all?

One possible answer is so obvious that nobody thought of it earlier: build a browser.

Yesterday, Yahoo unveiled Axis, “a new kind of browser that redefines what it means to search and browse the web”.

What, you might ask, can Yahoo really add to the browser game? A lot more than many of might have expected apparently. As News.com’s Rafe Needleman explains, Yahoo Axis isn’t your typical browser:

On Axis, there are no search result pages.

Instead, what you get when you search, at least 80 percent of the time, Batraski says, is a horizontal display of Web page thumbnails. (The other 20 percent of the time you get text boxes with results in them.) It’s easy to see if one of the pages is what you’re looking for, and then you can go there directly. To see the tiles again and go to other results, you just pull down the page from the top. To move forward or backward in the list of results directly from a page you’re on, you drag your finger from the right or left. bypassing the results list entirely.

Needleman observes that this may not help Yahoo turn Axis searches into revenue initially, although the company has plans to insert ads into the list of search tiles. But for now, it is focusing on creating a new kind of browser experience.

That, judging from the reactions to Axis, may be a smart move. AllThingsDigital’s Kara Swisher writes — with some astonishment, that Axis is “innovative.” She likens it to a “Pinterest of search.” Engadget’s team was able to test the browser and says “we largely like what we see.” For Gizmodo’s Molly Oswaks, Axis not only “doesn’t suck,” it’s “actually kinda cool”.

One important point is that Axis is really a browser extension for IE, Chrome, Firefox and Safari (iPad and iPhone apps are available too). Will that matter? Perhaps not. In fact, by building a new experience that can work with your existing browser, Yahoo may have stumbled onto a clever way to gain more rapid adoption for Axis.

If Axis takes off, which may or may not happen, the question becomes what it actually accomplishes for Yahoo. Even with massive use, the revenue potential seems debatable. But one thing is certain: if Yahoo can prove that it still has the ability to build innovative new consumer experiences, it could provide a much-needed boost to the company’s battered ego. And that shouldn’t be undervalued.