It seems that CoolIris has been around for a while, but I just became aware of it a few days ago when they launched their iPhone app. While the iPhone app is fine and dandy, the serious coolness of CoolIris takes place on the desktop. Available as a browser plugin for Safari, and Firefox for Mac and PC as well as IE7 for Windows, CoolIris is at its core just an image browser. However, it is a very rich, slick, versatile and polished image browser that, when paired with a fast ethernet connection, is like Google Earth for Internet data.
When you first start up CoolIris by clicking the little box next to your Search pane in your browser it launches in a channel of content called Discovery in which you can sift through the pre-picked results of what's going on on the Internet as assembled by the people at CoolIris. Meh.
Where CoolIris really gets interesting is when you go to a website that contains many images or even a Google Image search page and click on the CoolIris icon that appears in the lower left-hand corner of any picture on the page, it will load that page's image (and even video) content into the CoolIris browser and let you look through things by scrolling, dragging, zooming or even just hitting play and viewing the whole thing as a slide show.
To take things to the next level, you can also search from within CoolIris for content on sites like YouTube, DeviantArt, Google, Yahoo!, Flickr, and Photobucket. Even cooler is the ability to browse popular online retailers' content as well, such as Amazon, iTunes, KB Toys, Macy's, Nordstrom, and Wal-Mart. I attempted to listen to a few singles from iTunes, but it doesn't look like that is possible at this point. I was able to browse by album art and then click a link to get to the corresponding page in iTunes.
CoolIris definitely needs to be tried and played with to see it's utility and/or novelty. While some users may find it to be a pointless skin getting in the way of the actual data they are looking for, others may find it a breath of fresh air in terms of usability and display-ability of content on the Internet.
Also this is one of the only instances I can remember where I was glad that I had the ability to scroll horizontally on my Apple Mighty Mouse, a veritably useless and notoriously under-utilized feature.
In addition to CoolIris, you may also want to check out Amazon's WindowShop, a similar idea with more utility but seemingly less "cool".