Microsoft reinventing Live Search – celeb gossip, maps and books updated to battle the Google machine

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live-search-update-interview-uk.jpgKeen to move itself up the public’s list of places they go to find stuff, Microsoft has today revealed a massive rethink and retooling of its Live Search portal.

The headline change – and the one that’ll make you go “Ooh!” the most is its new Live Search Video, which now includes a “motion thumbnail” – a mini 30 second preview of the video on the search result page. Try it here. Hover your mouse over the search results – it’s like magic!

Speaking to Tech Digest this morning, Microsoft’s Brad Goldberg, general manager of the search business, said of the changes “We need the relevance of search results to get better. We had 20 billion documents indexed as of last Autumn. The way search looks has to change – you won’t see a list of ten blue links in five years time.”

Also announcing the coming of out-of-copyright books and digitised versions of 30,000 British Library classics to the search service, location-based mobile services and celeb gossip stat-tracking system xRank, MS is really pushing the boat out in the search wars…

Highlighting the fact that 40% of web searches are abandoned with the user simply giving up and not clicking on any of the results at all, Goldberg said “We need to stop users blaming themselves when they can’t find what they’re looking for. At the moment, when a search fails, they think it’s their fault for not ‘unlocking the power of the web’ rather than a failure of the search technology.”

Live searches will try to ‘second guess’ the searcher’s needs and will present a list of alternate results to head off on – thanks to Microsoft’s boffins calculating that 50% of all search queries are hurriedly edited and changed to something else when, inevitably, the right thing doesn’t come up first time.

Elsewhere in tech developments, Microsoft’s acquisition of MultiMap is paying off too, with an updated Maps feature bringing more interactivity – like Wikipedia links to local tourist attractions – to its visual results. And the Books section is bringing out-of-copyright works to the public, along with selected reference works – no doubt in an attempt to bring some official status to fact-hunting, rather than having to rely on Wikipedia’s often odd – and sometimes just plain wrong – data.

Plus, because all we really want to do is see photos of whatever it is Mariah Carey was wearing in Santa Monica yesterday, the new xRank feature gives celebrity news addicts a way to browse through vacuous items about dresses and who’s possibly a Scientologist today.

And if you’re doing all this via a telephone, “Find My Location” will appear, letting your phone tell you where you are and what businesses are in the area. And, we would cynically suggest, letting Microsoft serve you relevant advertising. It has to pay for all this somehow. 20 billion pages of internet search results don’t store themselves, you know.

So basically, Microsoft is jazzing up its Live Search beyond all recognition. Expect to see a big push of its benefits over the coming weeks and months, as it tries to convince a disbelieving world that having Google as your homepage is starting to make you look a little bit old fashioned.

(Via Microsoft)

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Gary Cutlack

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