Microsoft Bing not bad, no really

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Google’s new Search will go live worldwide on the 3rd of June. Named after the popular sitcom character Chandler (it’s not really), Bing is Microsoft’s first real pop at a Google beater.

And first impressions are…not bad, which for Microsoft is a massive victory.

It’s being praised for its comprehensive and user-friendly travel and shopping searches, although general searches and Microsoft’s big hope, local search have left something to be desired.

Although the UI seems clean and simple some of the better features have been secreted under drop-downs and tabs.

Bing will get a “soft launch” in the UK in BETA form, before a 60 strong team go to work making it’s results more UK relevant.

Ashley Higfield, a key player behind the success of the iPlayer, and now Microsoft’s UK Consumer Vice President, said: “There is a huge opportunity in the search market.”

(Via Wired and The Times)

“Given that it’s dominated by one player, and given that research shows a high level of dissatisfaction among a high level of the user base. We know that only around a quarter of people get what they are looking for on the first search.”

Bing is being by some more as an “information portal” than a straight-up search engine. It provides options and answers as opposed to referrals.

But it looks to be a good start – some tweaking and Microsoft might well be onto something.

Twitter bring search to its pages

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Twitter has added a proper search bar to its pages now so that you, me and everyone we know can perform real-time searches as to what people are talking about. The move might actually give people a reason to go back to the main site whose overwhelming traffic goes only to the Twitter API with programs like twhirl and twibble and all other things generally with blue icons and beginning with tw.

The trouble is that are a plenty of services out there that already provide a real-time search of Twitter, so will it make any difference that the mother site has now got its act together?

If you can’t think of anything to search Twitter for, then the sidebar will display the most popular terms that people are talking about at the moment with Swine Flu and Wolverine on top at the moment. Not sure which of those I’d rather sit through.

(via Twitter blog)

Ask.com brings back Jeeves

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After a few years of being Jeeve-less, search engine Ask.com has brought back its iconic butler following, the company claims, “public demand”. The company told Tech Digest that research has shown that users “missed his friendly, human, touch”.

Jeeves will be returning in 3D, given a makeover by Framestore – a company that worked on The Golden Compass and Chronicles of Narnia. He’s also got some new threads, courtesy of Savile Row tailors Gieves and Hawkes. They do rather make him look more like a banker or a politician, though.

Jeeves was originally inspired by the butler to PG Wodehouse’s “Wooster” character, which has come to represent the stereotypical English butler. He left Ask.com in 2006, but Ask.com’s traffic hasn’t exactly skyrocketed since, which is presumably the reason behind his resurrection.

Ask.com

Wikia Search project abandoned

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Following poor traffic, Wikia Search will be shut down, says Jimmy Wales, trustee of the Wikimedia foundation. It was originally intended to be a search engine where users could influence the ranking of results, but recently it’s struggled for traffic – attracting just 10,000 unique users per month ovedr the last six months.

Wales says: “This one is too far away. It was going to take at least a another year to two before it’s usable by the public, and we can’t afford that right now. I’ll return to this again when the economy is good.”

Part of Wikia Search’s decline can probably be attributed to Google SearchWiki, launched last November, which allows users to comment and influence, though not fully determine, the rankings of individual results on Google searches.

Wales also discussed Microsoft’s shuttering of Encarta, commenting that it’s “disappointing to see a center of knowledge going away”. He said that he’d been attempting to contact Microsoft about integrating some of Encarta’s content into Wikipedia. Due to Encarta’s relatively small size, however, “the community probably wouldn’t find it useful. However, the images might be useful.”.

Wikia Search (via Cnet)

Skittles changes homepage to Twitter search for "Skittles"

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Skittles, the little fruity sweets, have done a bit of a makeover on the Skittles.com homepage. The page now shows the real-time results for a Twitter search for “Skittles”, with a floating box to tell you a little more about the page.

There are several aspects to this that are interesting. It’s another massive step towards mainstream for Twitter (I bet Skittles is hoping that the service doesn’t go down). It’s also a massive step towards “the conversation” for Mars, which is a company that’s been plagued with criticism in the past, though admittedly not as much as rival Nestlé.

In fact, although there’s not been much stirring on the PETA message boards at the time of writing, it’s surely only a matter of time before the people behind sites like MarsCandyKills.com start flooding the service with highly-negative Tweets.

Some call this the campaign backfiring. I don’t think so. I think that it shows bravery, and a belief that the general public doesn’t really care. Personally, I think far more positively about the company that it’s happy to publicise its criticism, and I’ll be disappointed if they cave.

Skittles.com (via @robbrown)

Yahoo! clawing back market share from Google?

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If the latest figures from traffic-trackers comScore are correct, it would appear that Yahoo! is slowly but surely clawing back some of Google’s utter dominance of the search sector, in the USA at least.

After many years of decline, Yahoo!’s search numbers have been increasing now for six months in a row, and in January they jumped up half a percentage point to 21%. Simultaneously, Google dropped half a percent to 63%.

It’s great news for Yahoo!, because it means that despite the acquisition dance around the company last year hasn’t had any negative effect on their core offering at all. Meanwhile, MSN Live Search is languishing at 8.5%, while Microsoft pours money into it, and Cuil is nowhere to be seen.

British Film Council launches FindAnyFilm.com: first thoughts

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Film fans, this story’s for you. The British Film Council has spent £1 million on developing a new website called FindAnyFilm. It’s been seven months in development, and aims to combine cinema listings with links to buy DVDs or downloads, or watch films online.

The implementation is very simple – just put in the name of a film, actor/actress, genre, or the name of a cinema, and you’ll be presented with a list of relevant results. It’s well-implemented, though I ran into a few launch-day bugs, like not being able to display a map of where a specific cinema was. I’m sure that kind of thing will be fixed by the end of the week.

Google Timeline results graduates from Labs

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Towards the start of last year, Google experimented with different ways to view search results in its “Experimental” section. They were evidently happy enough with one of them – Timeline – that it’s now appearing in some queries in the main results. Timeline allows you to browse results by when they were posted, or when they ocurred.

The picture above is for a search for “book of revelations”, though that search no longer displays the timeline. Perhaps Google is still tweaking it a little. I hope it stays, I rather like it, but it does beg the question – what’s next? Search by smell?

(via Search Engine Land)

Related posts: Google shows off 2008’s top searches | Kosmix.com – search, and crucially, context

Kosmix.com – search, and crucially, context

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Kosmix.com is a new startup that’s trying to shake Google’s dominance of the search market. Good luck with that, guys. However, I rather suspect that their real agenda, to take an analogy with politics, is more similar to the Green Party’s approach to Labour and the Conservatives. It’s trying to change things not by grabbing a majority share, but by innovating and passing popular ideas up to the people at the top.

Kosmix is trying to change search by providing context to your results. On the results page, you get a list of (Google’s) search results, as well as relevant forum posts (from Omgili), Q&As (from Yahoo! Answers), Videos (from BlinkX, YouTube and Trueveo), Images (from Yahoo!) and News and Blogs (from MeeHive). There’s other resources too, depending on what you search for.

Jeeves is now a Porn Star

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Way back in 2006, the eponymous butler behind Ask Jeeves was retired so that the site could rebrand as “Ask.com”. The site blogged about the change, but they also set up a page called Jeeves Retirement Journal, linked from the homepage, where Jeeves, the fictional character, could post about what he did in his retirement, where he went, what he enjoyed, etc…