Microsoft this week will begin utilizing a new generation of its Live Search service, hoping to gain on its rivals at Google and Yahoo. The new Live Search will be displayed to US-based customers within the week, Microsoft says, and then throughout the world by the end of October.
"With this update to Live Search, our engineering focus is on the areas that matter most to our 185 million consumers who use our service every month," says Microsoft corporate vice president Satya Nadella. "We have made dramatic progress in delivering a better search experience to our customers. We know what kinds of things consumers are searching for, and we have invested in those key high-interest verticals, including entertainment, shopping, health and local search. With the core platform in place we intend to win customers and earn their loyalty one query at a time."
Those words may be prophetic: In addition to never rising out of third place in the Web search market despite years of research and development work and spending on Live Search, some Web metrics firms report Microsoft has actually lost share over this time. Microsoft believes, however, that the key to winning customers is to simply provide a better experience and, of course, better results.
To that end, the new Live Search features include a search index that is now four times larger than the one uses when the service started, new algorithms for understanding what it is that people are really trying to find, on-the-fly results updating, and an improved version of the service's rich answers feature, which is triggered in response to specific queries about the weather, images, celebrities, sports, stocks, maps, and other topics. Microsoft has also made investments in so-called vertical searches, responding to the fact that over 40 percent of all Web searches involve entertainment, shopping, health and local search.
While Microsoft's Web search service has always provided some relevant and obvious advantages over Google and Yahoo search services, the company has had difficulty gaining new users, and it's unclear whether these changes will reverse this trend. What could help, however, is Microsoft's decision to better coordinate and integrate its various Windows Live services into a more cohesive set of offerings. This, too, could take years to realize, however.