Microsoft-Powerset Won't Divorce Google from Search Dominance

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-09-18
 
 
 

Powerset, the semantic search company some called a Google killer until Microsoft bought it Aug. 1, has now been partially integrated into the software giant's Live Search application.

The features include Freebase Answers, better captions for Wikipedia results (eh) and new related searches that leverage the Factz engine. They are all being tested on Live Search, which means they are being shown to a small percentage of users so that Microsoft and the Powerset team can decide what features will eventually roll into the finished product.

The first project was to expand the number of queries for which Live Search shows Freebase Answers. Also, topical queries, such as musicians, albums and films, will return a topic summary with links, similar to the Freebase Answers in Powerset. A minor improvement, yes, but the integration is clear. See FreeBase pic from Flickr here.

The second project leveraged Powerset's semantic technology-the crown jewel Microsoft valued the startup for-to generate improved captions for Wikipedia articles. This makes total sense; for me, Wikipedia searches regularly show up third, fourth or fifth in Google. Here is a more detailed caption.

Finally, Powerset's Factz extraction is now generating related searches for a set of queries in Live Search. Moreover, Live Search's technology is providing related articles on Powerset-enhanced Wikipedia articles.

Some folks in the tough-love blogosphere are ripping the integration as too banal, or non-newsworthy.

I'm not so harsh to judge because, as Powerset's Scott Prevost and Microsoft's Hugh Williams noted in a blog post, the integrations were intended as 30-day first acts between the broader production of Live Search and Powerset teams. Prevost and Williams promised:

"We have plans for deeper integration in the future, but these projects gave us an opportunity to get to know our colleagues up in Redmond and drive greater understanding of our respective technologies."

As far as slaying Google goes, I see nothing in Microsoft and Powerset's current integrations, nor anything in future integrations, that will make me think the purchase will help Live Search gain ground on Google.

Rather, I see the buy and subsequent integrations as ways to improve a Live Search experience that was lacking for users, Google aside.

I still think it's a fine purchase to improve Live Search, but does anyone outside Redmond not think Microsoft has lost the search war?

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