Search Wars Salvo: Microsoft Launches Live Search

In case you missed it, Microsoft Live Search finally came out of beta testing and officially launched as a search platform. And while the folks in Redmond certainly have more they can do to improve upon it, their first pass is pretty darn good. Simply put, Live Search is not your parent's MSN. And whether you are a searcher or an advertiser, you need to check it out.

With certain elements of this new launch, Microsoft has leapfrogged functionality offered by Google and Yahoo, and thus forced its two larger competitors to respond. Utimately, the winners of this global arms race of search are you and me--everyday searchers. Because every time one of the Big 3 rolls out a new feature that makes searching easier, we all win. Let's take a look at how Live Search does just that.

First and foremost, Microsoft gets it. The company understands its third-place position in the search world and desperately wants to change it. Microsoft understands the need to aggressively increase its query share. I believe that by personalizing search services and integrating them with products such as Hotmail and Office, Microsoft can do just that.



New features include:

  • The major focus of Live Search is personalization. Check out the "Options" and "Advanced" tab features on the search results page. One of the cooler features of this platform is that it allows the searcher to alter the rankings in terms of "Updated Recently," "Very Popular" and "Exact Match." That provides fantastic user control. Users will definitely have to play around with this to get the right mix, but the bottom line is that searchers are being given the choice.

  • One thing you will immediately notice is the major improvement that MSN has made in the relevancy of its search results. Try a search for the term "electronics" and look at how clean the results and descriptions are. Microsoft is definitely catching up with Google on that front. In fact, I have seen some recent research that says just that. Unfortunately, as most followers of the search engine wars know, relevancy of search results is NOT the Holy Grail. If it were, (which uses the Teoma search technology) would not be a distant fifth place in terms of query share. That being said, Microsoft has nonetheless made significant strides in the relevancy of the search results it delivers.

  • Notice how Microsoft has reserved the top right-hand aside of the page to display "Related Queries." This is extremely valuable real estate from a search engine's point of view, as most of the engines sell and display paid search ads there. Microsoft has instead chosen to use this real estate to make searching easier.

  • Check out the "Local" tab. It provides a "Locate Me" feature that will find you on the map (at least where your ISP provider is) and a bird's-eye view of the geographic area around you. The personalization elements are cool features that allow you to save local destinations to a scratch pad, share these destinations with others, and then save local Web results to a favorites list.

  • Check out the "Images" tab for some of the coolest search functionality relating to images yet. The platform provides infinite scroll functionality for all the images so you don't have to click "Next 10," as well as a scroll bar that let's you control how many images per row you want to display. It also provides a thumbnail of the image when you mouse over it. Finally, check out the scratch pad functionality that allows you to drag and drop, as well as save images from prior searches.

  • The final feature I thought would be nice to highlight is the "Academic" tab, which--while not totally relevant to most advertisers--should provide great use to noncommercial researchers. Check out the clean layout of the search results and the great mouse-over feature to display an abstract of each article.

    While I only had space to highlight a few of the new features of Live Search, it is clear to me that Microsoft has made great strides with this launch. However, there are still other factors that the company will need to focus on, such as improving load time and building out the index. But make no mistake about it; Live Search is the latest salvo in the search engine wars saga. It will be interesting to see how Google and Yahoo respond. After all, the continued battle amongst these search titans will only produce better search results for all of us in the end.

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