Microsoft Research Opens Its Doors

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-06-10 Print this article Print

From mapping the shortest distance to a destination to weeding out Web page spam, researchers at the largest software maker say they are aiming to make technology more useful.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Finding the shortest distance between two points sounds easy enough, but computing that route takes too long and consumes too much computer memory. Researchers at Microsoft Corp. are tackling the problem so that, in the next few years, computers can map the fastest route as well as make fast adjustments for road work or traffic jams, said Michael Schroeder, assistant director of Microsoft Researchs Silicon Valley lab here. It comes down to developing a better mapping algorithm, one efficient enough to do massive computations in the palm of someones hand.
"It may be possible to put in a PDA and use for real-time reports of road outages," Schroeder said.
Microsoft Researchs quest to find the shortest path was one of 10 projects on display here on Wednesday during an open house of one of its five research labs. Among the other projects demonstrated were ones focused on ridding Web search of spam, automatically creating summaries of news stories and blocking Internet worms. While research projects are developed outside of Microsofts product development, the end results ultimately can make their way into features for everyday users, said Dan Ling, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research. "Its important for us to take some of research we work on and have it benefit the 100s of millions of Microsoft customers around world," Ling said. "At this point, every single Microsoft product has been touched by Microsoft Research." Ling and other researchers were careful to point out that nothing on display was specifically slated for a product, but the possible connections between some of the projects and Microsofts product plans were apparent. Click here to read about some Microsoft Research initiatives that could impact Windows Longhorn. Take for example a project aimed at battling the rise of Web page spam, where sites use methods such as machine generation of pages and links to mislead search engines. It could directly impact popular Web search engines, such as Microsofts MSN Search, said researcher Marc Najork said. "Any search engine could and should apply this," Najork said. Next page: MS own algorithmic search engine.

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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