Microsoft Launches Search Beta: Platform Ho!

Well, the rumours were true, the launch is real, and the Microsoft search engine is officially here, if in beta, and still in the "Sandbox" for now. I'm told that MSFT intends to roll it into MSN after garnering feedback for the next few months, probably sometime in the first…

msftnewsearch1Well, the rumours were true, the launch is real, and the Microsoft search engine is officially here, if in beta, and still in the “Sandbox” for now. I’m told that MSFT intends to roll it into MSN after garnering feedback for the next few months, probably sometime in the first half of 2005.

Microsoft’s angle on the engine is “providing more useful answers.” In the presentation I was given, MSFT showed some new research which claimed that the time between a searcher’s query and a full answer averages 11 minutes. It’s within this window that MSFT hopes to improve search – getting an answer, quicker.

I haven’t had time to play with it to the extent I can say that it’s better or worse than its competitors, but clearly, this is a significant engine. (I’ve included links to the press site, which features the new engine, at this writing, the beta site was still the old product). Product manager Justin Osmer, who gave me a tour, says he’s confident the engine “will get us in the game.” The index currently boasts 5 billion pages indexed, and includes some innovative features, including a location-based search called “Search Near Me” and a Yahoo-like approach to well-worn keyphrases like musician’s names and the like. The engine also includes an Ask-like question answering capability. Before Google upped thier index to 8 billion, clearly in response to this news, Microsoft claimed, in early press releases, to have the largest index. Clearly it’s back to the indexing board for them on that count, not, as Linden and many others have pointed out, that it really matters in the big scheme of things.

Search Near Me works either by interpreting your IP address to geolocation, which does not always work, or allowing you to set your preferences to include your actual location. Image and News search is also integrated.

searchblderThe interface is clean and uncluttered, and includes a “Search Builder” tool that allows you to customize your query for better results. I’ll have more on this in coming days, but for now, suffice to say the game is on, and Microsoft is very much on the field.

In conjunction with the launch, Microsoft has also debuted it’s own Microsoft Search Blog (I’m honored, really…) along the lines of Google and Yahoo’s entries. It’s first entry is now up. I’m pleased to say, the comments are open.

But perhaps the most important news I gleaned from talking to Osmer was this: Microsoft has every intention of opening up its search APIs and allowing third party developers to leverage their search platform for new and innovative applications. This is where the future lies, in my mind, and I find that declaration a refreshing indication of where Microsoft is heading. “Our intentions down the road are not only to continue to grow the engine,” Osmer said, “but to also set the groundwork for a third party ecosystem that would allow others to use our technology. We as a company realize that there is a significant difference between shrink wrapped software (in other words, MSFT’s bread and butter) and the online world.”

Amen. Let the games commence!

Draft release in extended entry.

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8 Billion

Yep, that's what the Google home page now says it indexes…it also notes that this is a "nearly doubling". Now I am sure this has nothing to do with the launch of MSFT's search, more on that at 9 pm PST….Google's blog has the details….

goog 8 billYep, that’s what the Google home page now says it indexes…it also notes that this is a “nearly doubling”. Now I am sure this has nothing to do with the launch of MSFT’s search, more on that at 9 pm PST….Google’s blog has the details.

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Loads O News

Besides the MSFT news, more is coming and much more has past that I missed last week or that merits a quick post, but I'm buried so here's a roundup: First off, Dogpile has launched a new feature it calls "IntelliFind" which "utilizes sophisticated query intelligence to assess the likely…

Besides the MSFT news, more is coming and much more has past that I missed last week or that merits a quick post, but I’m buried so here’s a roundup:

dogpile2First off, Dogpile has launched a new feature it calls “IntelliFind” which “utilizes sophisticated query intelligence to assess the likely intent behind every entered query, enabling Dogpile to return more relevant results from a wider array of content sources.” Dogpile is a metasearch engine, using results from Google, Yahoo, Ask, About, LookSmart, and many others. I’m not a huge fan of how they list paid results, but the service keeps innovating, worth checking out.

10x10Last week 10×10 got a lot of buzz, this service lists the top 100 images and phrases that are driving news in any given hour. Cool to look at.

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Can We Please Bury the Netscape Metaphor?

Thanks to the pending launch of MSFT's search technology, today the press is full of easy comparisons – "Is Google the Next Netscape?" is a typical headline. The mainstream press has just woken up to the "Microsoft is going to crush its competition" meme, and it's tiring to see this…

netscapeThanks to the pending launch of MSFT’s search technology, today the press is full of easy comparisons – “Is Google the Next Netscape?” is a typical headline. The mainstream press has just woken up to the “Microsoft is going to crush its competition” meme, and it’s tiring to see this easy thinking splayed all over the mediasphere.

But let’s get one thing straight, for once and for all: Google ain’t no Netscape. As many have pointed out, it’s looking more and more like the next Microsoft, in terms of business model, talent, and riches.

If Bill Gates had a magic shaving mirror, one that showed him 20 years younger and in fighting shape, he’d probably peer into it and see the image of Larry Page or Sergey Brin. Microsoft is indeed a fearsome competitor, with extraordinary resources (and I don’t mean the $50 billion in cash, I mean the ability to leverage Windows). But it’s a middle aged company that moves far more slowly than it did ten years ago, when it first recognized the Web threat. And even if it wants to move, which I am sure it does, it’s uncertain as to which way to go: it’s got a massive legacy to protect, and an uncertain path forward.

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Google Looks to Its Resellers

What's a sign of a maturing business? One that takes care of its "developers." In the case of Google (for now, anyway), that means the agencies and search engine marketing companies that manage AdWords accounts on behalf of multiple clients. (Soon, one might presume, Google will have a robust developer…

professional_welcome_signupWhat’s a sign of a maturing business? One that takes care of its “developers.” In the case of Google (for now, anyway), that means the agencies and search engine marketing companies that manage AdWords accounts on behalf of multiple clients. (Soon, one might presume, Google will have a robust developer network of the more traditional kind, a la Microsoft or Apple, but I’m getting ahead of the story).

Today Google announced “Google Advertising Professionals,” a program designed to cater to SEMs and agencies. Google has long lagged Overture in the Manicuring the Hand That Feeds You category, I am sure this program will be a welcome addition in the search marketing space. Details in release, in extended entry.

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MSFT Search to Debut This Week

I was wondering why the MSFT folks were so eager to get me in front of a PC this week (I will see a preview Weds and report back asap): MSFT will debut its search to the public this Thursday, well ahead of sked. Hmm, wonder if there was a…

gatesmsftI was wondering why the MSFT folks were so eager to get me in front of a PC this week (I will see a preview Weds and report back asap): MSFT will debut its search to the public this Thursday, well ahead of sked. Hmm, wonder if there was a fire under that team’s ass, stoked by Bill and Steve?

From the WSJ piece (the Journal is open this week, thankfully):

The Redmond, Wash. software maker on Thursday will open to the public its service for searching the Internet after eighteen months of development. The company is trying to tap into the lucrative business now dominated by Google of combining Internet search and advertising.

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The Transparent (Shopping) Society

As long as I’m on the topic of societal impacts of search, I wanted to sketch out a scenario for you all, in a similar vein to the one I did recently on the integration of search and television. This scenario involves several elements already in place – search technologies,…

eyepyramidAs long as I’m on the topic of societal impacts of search, I wanted to sketch out a scenario for you all, in a similar vein to the one I did recently on the integration of search and television.

This scenario involves several elements already in place – search technologies, mobile phones, and the Universal Product Code system – and some more fanciful, but nevertheless feasible technological and business model innovations.

So let’s set this one in motion and see what happens. Imagine it’s the near future, and you’re in your local grocery store on a mission to pick up dinner for a Saturday night dinner party. Because you’re a Searchblog reader with oodles of disposable income to burn, it’s a Whole Foods store, the aisles dripping organic righteousness and whole grain goodness. You know that dinner for 8 is going to run you at least $200, not counting the wine, but that’s OK, compared to the tab at the local bistro, you’ll be coming out ahead. But you do want to make sure you’re not spending money you don’t have to, especially on the wine.

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You Are What You Index

Yesterday evening I spent some time chatting with a major news program that is doing a piece on Google. During the conversation, the correspondent asked how engines like Google are changing our own sense of self as we relate to the rest of the world. I went off on my…

ratherYesterday evening I spent some time chatting with a major news program that is doing a piece on Google. During the conversation, the correspondent asked how engines like Google are changing our own sense of self as we relate to the rest of the world. I went off on my (now rather tired) example of a hypothetical Deadbeat Dad who failed to make child support payments, was called out in court and in the local papers. He eventually mended his ways, paid up, and decided that because his reputation was sullied in the community where he lived, he’d move to another state and start over fresh.

But when he got to his new home, he couldn’t get a job. Why? Because unbeknownst to him, his potential employers had Googled him, and found out he was a deadbeat dad.

But damn, if I had talked to the correspondent today, I could have just pointed her to Tim Bray’s thoughts:

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We Will Never Surrender

Andy points us to a Reuters story covering the MSFT annual meeting. As the story reports, MSFT CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience that with regard to Google and Yahoo's lead in search advertising: "We will catch up, we will surpass." I only hope they do it through innovation and…

ballmer2Andy points us to a Reuters story covering the MSFT annual meeting. As the story reports, MSFT CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience that with regard to Google and Yahoo’s lead in search advertising:

“We will catch up, we will surpass.”

I only hope they do it through innovation and service, and not by forcing it down Longhorn users’ throats.

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Feedburner, More Advertising Feedback

Over at his site, Jeremy gives Searchblog his opinion on the Feedburner implementation. Elsewhere, I've gotten comments on the AdBrite ads running on the right and below the permalink pages. Jeremy says: My thoughts on this: • The ads are irrelevant–unrelated to the content of the post. Unlike AdSense, they…

moneyOver at his site, Jeremy gives Searchblog his opinion on the Feedburner implementation. Elsewhere, I’ve gotten comments on the AdBrite ads running on the right and below the permalink pages.

Jeremy says:

My thoughts on this:
• The ads are irrelevant–unrelated to the content of the post. Unlike AdSense, they don’t fit in with the context at all.
• The ads are pretty big.
• That space is not well used. Instead of Amazon.com branding, why not show an album cover there? That might get me interested. Maybe.

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