Live.com Re-Released, Actually Relevant Now
Yes, Microsoft held its big Searchification event yesterday and the bloggers are all in a tizzy. There was even liveblogging by Vanessa and Todd. (Wait – There was liveblogging and no one called me? Am I not pretty enough for you people?)
I wasn’t at the event, but it’s okay (I guess). There is plenty of coverage. So much coverage, in fact, that it’s somewhat hard to figure out what’s important, who’s just biased and what’s sounding a little too much like a press release.
Here’s what I think you should know.
- An Actually Relevant Index: For me, this is the biggest improvement of them all. The new Live.com index is now four times as big as the old one. Sweet! I did some standard query testing to try things out, and I have to admit, the results are decent. I’d even go as far as to call them "relevant" and maybe even "useful". Microsoft revealed that they’ve incorporated more clickstream data to help the ranking and relevancy process. Things are looking good, guys. Congrats!
- Deeper Verticals: We mentioned the kick ass new version of MSN Video yesterday, and the guys from Redmond aren’t stopping there. Microsoft is making "deep investments" in the areas of entertainment, shopping, health and local. Why? Because, according to their numbers, 40 percent of searches fall into these categories. Their investment includes creating special results pages for queries related to these verticals, along with health and local. These "special pages" will give users a comprehensive overview of the topic, using blended search elements like images, reviews, ratings, and maps.
- Better Rich Answers: The new version of Live Search will include a revamped Answers platform that will give users instant responses to queries related to weather, images, celebrities and entertainment, sports, stocks, Yellow Pages, maps or quick facts. It doesn’t seem quite as in depth or impressive as Ask’s offering, but still, nice.
- Another Rebranding?: I haven’t heard this anywhere else, but Mary Jo Foley reports that Microsoft still isn’t sold in this whole "Live" thing. I guess they find it just as silly as they rest of us. Live Search General Manager Derrick Connell told Mary Jo that Microsoft continues to look at how they can improve branding. Perhaps a new name is in the works?
- Dedicated to Fall/Spring Release Schedule: Microsoft will stick to its Spring/Fall release schedule for every year Live continues to exist (that sounds promising, eh?). The upcoming spring release will involve enhancements around community. I guess we’ll hear more about that once the flowers start blooming. [Hands up on people who actually think they'll make that schedule? --Susan] Shh, don’t kill their buzz.
And that’s everything you need to know about the new release in a nut shell. Microsoft is getting a lot of press right now and I keep hearing about how they’re "equal to Google". First of all, I don’t think that’s true. Is Microsoft better than it was a year ago? Sure, but it’s still not in the same league as Google. And quite frankly, no one, not even Google, is doing blended search as well as Ask.com.
And even if they were as good as Google (whatever that really means), it wouldn’t be "good enough". Google has the brand, Microsoft doesn’t. In order for users to trust them, they’d have to be light years ahead of Google, and they’re not there with this release. They did a great job of increasing the size and relevancy of their index, they did some funky things with their maps, added some new features, but I haven’t seen anything that is really different. So far it’s just been catch up. Needed catch up but catch up all the same.