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September 27, 2007

Live.com Re-Released, Actually Relevant Now

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Quick! Microsoft just rolled out a new and improved version of Live.com and TechMeme is on fire! It’s just so beautiful to watch.

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.

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One response to “Live.com Re-Released, Actually Relevant Now”

  1. Lani writes:

    I’m not sure about live being too far from Google, the results are almost similar – all though when looking at results, I’m still seeing google SERPS highly dominated by paid links, where Live is looking somewhat more relevant on a few popular searches (at least the top 3 results.)

    Yahoo’s new algorithm has surprised me, lots of good clean up done there. I’m seeing more sites who place top 3 on Google now making it to top 10 on Yahoo. Both sites have swayed so far a part within the SEO scope, it’s sometimes difficult for small business to rank well on Google and retain that same element on Yahoo. This recent improvement has actually brought them closer to Google as well.

    I concur however, Google is “brand search” – Yahoo nor Live can compete with it. Blockbuster films, prime time TV etc are utilizing the term “Google” comfortably in their scripts. I also don’t see anyone outside of the “web industry” worried whether Google or Live is giving them better results, it’s just a matter of who gets in the front of the consumer when he/she needs something.

    I’m still in shock when I go to clients offices, and they open up a browser window – see MSN.com then type in google.com to check their rankings. I would be more concerned about relative results and search competition if the search industry were my precise demographics – but if they were, there would be no reason to not throw a hefty budget on Google’s lap. But the Search Industry is just a small part of the broad scope, and I can list you 40 people on my AIM/MSN/Yahoo list that wouldn’t care what came up first or last on either search engine for “coca cola” they just do what the other cool people do, and Google.

    I am happy about the 2 engines moving toward better search. They won’t beat Google, but they sure will give users better results, which means more money for sites that deserve it.



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