Microsoft's new search engine, Bing, could be improved at some point through the use of an online game called Page Hunt, researchers with Microsoft Research demonstrated in a new paper. Page Hunt generates data from users that could be used to refine queries and search results. Bing currently sits in third in the U.S. search engine market behind Google and Yahoo, even as Microsoft pumps between $80 million and $100 million into the initial marketing effort.
new search engine, Bing, could be improved by playing an online game.
The game, named Page Hunt, presents users with a random Web page and then
asks them to input the search terms that will put that page within a search
engine's top five search results. Depending on how close to the top of the
rankings their queries put the Web page, players are awarded points. In order
to sweeten the experience, the game adds animations, a top-score list, bonus
points and other "gamelike" features.
Page Hunt can be found on this site
. It requires
Silverlight to run. For the moment, however, it exists entirely as a research
project, with no direct connection to Bing.
"One of the nice things about Microsoft is that engineers frequently
spend time with Microsoft Research and collaborate on a number of fronts, which
often leads to changes in search," a Microsoft spokesperson noted in an e-mail
As a single-player game, Page Hunt boasts a simplicity that makes even
straightforward shoot -em ups such as Gears of War look like championship
chess. However, the results it generates could contribute mightily to the
extraordinarily complex task of refining the search engine process: an
important task for Microsoft as it seeks any possible advantage over Google and
Yahoo in the online search space.
The thinking behind the game is described in a research paper, "Page
Hunt: Improving Search Engines Using Human Computation Games," issued by
Raman Chandrasekar and Chris Quirk of Microsoft Research, with Abhishek Gupta
of Digital Media LLC and Hao Ma of the Chinese University of Hong Kong listed
"We suggest using human computation games to elicit data from players
that can be used to improve search," the abstract of the paper reads.
"The data elicited using Page Hunt has several applications including
providing metadata for pages, providing query alterations for use in query
refinement, and identifying ranking issues."
The original pilot experiment conducted by Chandrasekar and company involved
341 Microsoft employees playing Page Hunt over a 10-day period, generating
14,400 labels for the 744 Web pages in the system. The researchers then
"extracted the queries that corresponded to winning trials, generated all
pairs of queries as bitext data, and applied the bitext matching
Presumably, Microsoft could use that generated data to fine-tune the
algorithm governing Bing, should they decide that the model could contribute to
improving the search engine.
remains in third in the U.S. search engine market
, with 8.4 percent, behind
Google and Yahoo, with 65 percent and 19.6 percent, respectively. Microsoft is
backing the search engine, which launched on June 3, with a massive ad campaign
estimated at costing somewhere in the range of $80 million to $100 million.
In its first six weeks, according to a report by research company
percentage of the U.S. paid search advertising market stayed flat for the
second quarter of 2009
, at just below 6 percent. This number corresponds
roughly with Microsoft's tally before the launch of Bing.
"Microsoft appears to be focusing its efforts on driving consumer
interest and capturing increased search query share," Roger Barnette,
president of SearchIgnite, said in a July 14 statement accompanying the report.
"We have not yet seen this translate into more paid search advertising
dollars for Microsoft, although typically consumer adoption precedes advertiser