Friday, 28 September 2007

Microsoft introduces 'blended search' results

The New York Times has reported on a major updating by Microsoft of its Live Search service, in that it is changing the way that search results will be displayed. For example, a search for product information will now include photos and links to reviews and shopping information as part of the search results, with additional information being taken from sites like Amazon and PriceGrabber.

Microsoft will also be extending this approach to other types of searches, such as for local businesses, health information and entertainment. Satya Nadella, the corporate VP of the search and advertising platform group at Microsoft is quoted as saying about this new range of results that: “We call it blended search...We’re giving you instant answers.”

He also says that the idea is to try to anticipate what users want, yet in reality this appears to be little different from the 'universal search' format introduced previously by Google, or the new style of results on Ask - in a move by Microsoft to at least be level with the market, rather than to move it forward significantly.

Perhaps more realistically, Nadella is quoted as saying that his goal was not necessarily to steal customers from Google, but rather to entice Microsoft’s millions of users to turn to the service more frequently. This comes as ComScore reports that Google accounted for 56.5% of all web searches in the US in August, up nearly 10 percentage points from a year earlier. Yahoo was a distant second with 23.3% of the market, followed by Microsoft with 11.3% and Ask.com and AOL with 4.5%.

With Google becoming synonymous with 'search' on the Internet, they continue to establish what appears to be an unassailable position, with an even greater share of the search market in countries like the UK and Australia. Any developments that Google add have to be replicated by the other search tools to retain a similar offering, whereas new developments by the other main search tools - such as Ask's recent enhancements - seem to struggle to gain any new market share against user's conservative search behaviour and reliance on Google's results.

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