Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, December 13, 2004

How Microsoft Could Beat Google At Its Own Game: Search

Sponsored Links

If you hadn't noticed yet, the search engine war is heating up again and probably like we have never seen before.

Photo credit: Andy See

First Yahoo and now Microsoft, together with Amazon A9, Ask Jeeves and a growing number of smaller dedicated players like Mamma/Copernic or AllTheWeb, are all bringing to the search engine field their best resources and time while trying to take away the crown Google has been wearing for long.

Of all the contenders, the most innovative and awake to market trends and user needs has been Yahoo. After having been sleeping for a long time the directory giant has really awakened to the Web search opportunity, and having abandoned its third-party suppliers Yahoo now sports a powerful, effective and well rounded up search engine of its own.

Not only. Yahoo has taken up Google challenge on the News front as well, and it has created a fast growing News site with an equally powerful news search engine.

Yahoo is also the first major search engine to have fully embraced the RSS potential, by having introduced automatic RSS feed creation for any search query created.

Given the above, how can the Redmond software giant jump into the fray and surpass such talented competitors?

Can its sheer financial force give it an edge or will Microsoft need to develop its weakest muscle: innovation?

In my opinion, Microsoft could very well jump ahead of the small group of search engines majors, just by taking search to the next level, rather than by trying to do better what others are already doing very well.

So what are the key search-related innovation areas that need to be addressed by Microsoft (or for that matter by any other player serious enough to want to jump into this competition)?

Here is my list:

1) In place
You don't want to go to a separate screen location, or worse, to another window to perform a search. You want to do that in place. Toolbars and deskbars have already shown how much more effective searching in place can be. Next step is to free the search box from its current fixed locations. The search box is integrated in the cursor!

2) Visual
Yes, I have said this before. I am tired as you to wade through countless lists of results. It takes time. It is not efficient. I never get to see the "whole picture". Often interesting results are buried deep within the lists. How can I ever see them? I want to see visual clusters of results that represent the different possible answer areas that have come up. I want to be able to easily dive and resurface from those clusters. I want to see, as comprehensively as possible, all my results. The standard authority-ranked list like Google provides me should be only but one option of looking at results. Unless I can fly seamlessly through and above search results from one unique minimal interface, I will always be missing something.

3) Customizable
Everyone has different values, expectations, preferences, interests and goals. Why force one way of establishing what is a result for everyone? Can I rank results my way? How about electing my own trusted sources? Or filtering out
what "I" consider junk?

4) Shareable
If my choices, preferences, trusted sources, filtering methods and results cannot be shared with others we are missing the whole train passing in front of us. This is not old media. This is new media: participatory, shared, autonomous, from the bottom up.

5) Recordable
I want to be able to record and access every single site I have visited. I want to be able to search in a subsystem of the Web that includes only all of the sites that I have seen, or better yet, the specific pages on those sites that I have been to. Memory is a treasure information, and the longer and bigger it grows the more useful it becomes at providing relevant information about what you may be searching for.

6) Omni-comprehensive
Search is not anymore limited to searching the Web. The new search leader searches across my desktop, local files, email, RSS feeds, the blogosphere, the news, the deep web and over and across other specialized search spaces like academic papers and journals or the Amazon bookstore. There is actually a
lot more content that is being created in my computer everyday and that would be valuable to search and share with others.

7) Transparent
Be totally transparent about where and how you get your content. Expose the variables without making yourself too vulnerable to spammers.

8) RSS-enabled
Make RSS an integral element of your search technology. Allow any search query to generate an RSS feed.

9) Bottom-up
Leverage collaborative filtering, ranking and spontaneous reputation mechanisms controlled by the end users. Good examples are, furl, spurl, and others. Let the choices made by search users become a re-usable vote that others can use.

10) Ad-free
Let the ads become a true resource of complementary information. Embrace the non-intrusive model all the way. Make also their being shown an opt-in choice. Or offer a low-cost premium version without them.

11) Programmable
Provide an API that allows software developers to build on top of your search infrastructure more tools and useful applications.

12) Platform independent
Make your search work seamlessly across all computer types and operating systems.

13) Flexible
Make none of these features hardwired. Each one of us has different needs and goals. Allow each and every feature to be an option that users can opt-in to or opt-out from.

14) Profitable (not only through ads)
Monetize more by selling access to your intelligence data. Now. I want to pay to find out detailed information about demographics of those that visit my sites. I want to know what other sites they see, before and after having seen mine. I want to know what are people searching for when they need a certain product or service. I want to know which are the sites that people click on when they search for certain keywords. I want large organized bodies of statistical data on this that I can use to better tailor my content and services to my users. You are sitting on a gold treasure and you don't know it.

Stop searching, Start finding.

Readers' Comments    
2004-12-17 22:12:40

Doug Hudiburg

Right on Luigi.

I especially like the concept of being able to access the vast data that is potentially available if search engines were to shift thier focus this way.

posted by Robin Good on Monday, December 13 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Search this site for more with 








    Curated by

    New media explorer
    Communication designer


    POP Newsletter

    Robin Good's Newsletter for Professional Online Publishers  



    Real Time Web Analytics