Microsofts Live Search Gets a Major Overhaul

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-09-27 Print this article Print

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Microsoft is releasing a major update to its Live Search offering that will improve its core search technology and bring advances in vertical search areas, changes the company believes now make its search relevance at least as good as that of Googles and better than Yahoos. "In 2005, when we started, we were way behind both Google and Yahoo. We did move the needle in 2006, and we were happy with that, but, at the same time, Google and Yahoo also continued to improve," Satya Nadella, corporate vice president of Microsofts search and advertising platform group, said at a media event at its campus here Sept. 26.
But, with this release, "we feel that our slope of innovation has been so good that we can now claim to be as good as Google. We also believe that we are ahead of Yahoo," he said.
Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., also knows that relevance is a continuous game and requires a long-term commitment involving capital expense investments as well as the creation of a robust infrastructure, Nadella said. "While you and our other users will be the judges of these improvements, we feel very good about how far we, as a team, have come on the core issues around Web search," he added. Microsoft measures relevance improvements in a number of ways, including using trained human judges to assess the relevance of its search results, and using a blind taste test, where the judges do not know which search engine the results come from, he said. Finally, Joe Wilcox blogs, Microsoft delivers a search product that competes with Google. Read the blog here. The software makers confidence about the relevance of its search results is based in large part on the improvements delivered as a result of six major investments it has made in Live Search over the past year: coverage, query intent, query refinement, RankNet, structured information extraction and rich answers. Those six areas were identified as a result of extensive analysis of its search data over time, which showed that while some 54 percent of all users of searches were fully or partially satisfied, 46 percent were not satisfied. "We also found that, with regard to the unsatisfaction metric, about 91 percent of the time users are unhappy with the relevance of the results returned. An analysis of these relevance issues found that 28 percent of the issues were around coverage—things not in the index— while 25 percent were about query intent and refinement, 32 percent were with core ranking issues, and 15 percent due to other causes," Nadella said. This latest update to Windows Live addresses all of these areas, he said, and the new features and functionality will deploy into Microsofts data center in three stages over the next four weeks. Oct. 16 is the target date to complete this set of updates. But the software maker is playing catch-up, as many of the changes in the update are already offered by its competitors. Nokia is going to offer Microsofts Live Search for its Mobile Search platform. Read more here. The update brings a fourfold increase in the index size, which addresses the need for broader coverage to help ensure that the right results are returned for the highest percentage of queries. "Coverage is a direct function of the index size, and we are happy with the maturity of our core infrastructure," Nadella said. "We have focused on increasing Web coverage across the breadth of the Web, in deep, high-quality sites and in user-generated content. This has resulted in a relevance gain on long and obscure queries and has halved the number of queries where less than 10 results were returned." Page 2: Microsofts Live Search Gets a Major Overhaul

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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