Tag Archives | Live Search

Breaking: We May Know What the First Letter of the Bing Logo Looks Like!

You know you’re desperate for news about a new search engine when the possibility of one letter of its logo being accidentally revealed merits comment. But what the heck: The ever-enterprising M.G. Siegler of TechCrunch popped into Bing.com, which may soon be revealed to be the home of Microsoft’s replacement for Live Search, and saw that it had a Favicon–a tiny blue-and-orange letter “b.” When he checked again, it was gone.

The logical assumption here is that Microsoft is indeed girding itself to unveil the new service at the D conference this week, and that Bing is indeed the new name. I still think it would be cool if  all the scuttlebutt about the engine being named Bing, Kumo, or Hook was a conspiracy on Microsoft’s part, and it has an entirely different name up its corporate sleeve that nobody’s ever heard. In any event,

Normally, I’m opposed to technology products changing their names–I presume that even the search team at Microsoft would agree that changing a name does nothing to improve a product. In this case, though, the name “Live Search” is so lifeless and confusing that it makes sense to start fresh. I’m not at D, but will chime in again as events warrant.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to cozy up to the name Bing. It’s a sign of my age that it brings pleasantly nostalgic associations to mind, like…well, this:


Microsoft Advertising Its Way to Top of Search

Well, I’m not sure why it thinks it would work any different this time, but Microsoft at it again trying to advertise its way to better search marketshare with the search engine supposedly now known as Bing (previously known as Kumo). Altogether, about $80 to $100 million will be spent to promote the latest reboot, Advertising Age is reporting.

Microsoft will ask consumers to rethink what search is. Instead of directly going after its competitors, it will challenge consumers to think if search really does work as well as they thought.

If it does go as far as reports claim, it would be the largest ad campaign for any search product yet. You’d have to think that the saturation–ads will appear online, on TV and radio, and in the print–would at least cause a good portion of consumers to at least give the new search contender a look.

Consumers are generally happy with their searches. About two-thirds of all users are satisfied with search performance, although four in 10 searches require refinement to get what the user wants.

Bing’s (or Kumo, whatever) challenge if it is going to take on Google in this manner is to eliminate the need for refinement. So far from what we’re hearing it seems that it does seem to answer this to some extent, but it’s not a massive difference.


Microsoft's Search Engine Way Behind Google? Must be the Name!

Kumo LogoThe Wall Street Journal’s Nick Wingfield has a story up in which Microsoft’s Yusef Mehdi says that blind taste tests the company conducts show that consumers find the results from its Live Search search engine to be indistinguishable from Google results. But when Microsoft slaps the Google logo on Live Search results–in a sort of reversal of its Mojave Project prank–consumers like them better than when they know they’re from Microsoft.

Could be–although I use Live Search enough to know that I don’t find its results indistinguishable from Google’s, or as good. It’s unfair to judge a search engine based on one result, but here’s one that matters to me: If you google search Live Search for “technologizer”, its first result is our terms of service, and the Technologizer home page isn’t even on the first page of links. Every other major search engine manages to figure out that the single best result for “technologizer” is unquestionably www.technologizer.com.

That’s kind of emblematic of my experiences with Live Search, and it’s part of why I don’t go out of my way to use it. And that’s the challenge for Microsoft or any other company that wants to take on Google in search: They have to figure out how to convince consumers to go out of their way to use them.

Microsoft has a long history of changing the names of underperforming products (and sometimes of products that are doing just fine). I can’t remember an instance of the change being a clear improvement, and changing the names of things never makes them better. But in this case, a switch might be in order: Microsoft’s whole “Live” branding initiative has little traction, and it’s just confusing. The Journal’s story says that Microsoft plans to spend a lot of money promoting its search engine in the future, but has no revelations about a name switch to Kumo or Bing or anything else.

But even though either name might be an improvement on Live Search, I already have visions of consumers liking Kumo or Bing search results better when Microsoft tells them that the results are from Google…


More Live Search Name Drama!

ZDnet’s Mary-Jo Foley is speculating that the new name for Microsoft’s Live Search might not be Kumo after all. Maybe it’ll be…Bing!


Of course, as Mary-Jo reminds us, rumor had it in the past that Microsoft was also considering a third new moniker, Hook. That could work, too…

Captain Hook


More About Microsoft's Kumo Search Engine, Sort of

Kumo LogoLiveSide.net has a screenshot of the home page of “Kumo,” the next-generation Microsoft search engine which is currently in internal use at the company, and which may or may not be called Kumo when it goes public. It looks a lot like the current Live Search home page, which is dominated by a big striking photograph with hotspots that take you to search results relating to the image. The LiveSide image jibes with my only personal exposure to Kumo, which happened last week when I met with a Microsoft exec who had it loaded up in his browser; there, too, it had the Live Search-style photo teaser.

We still don’t know much about Kumo, though–and with search engines even more than most things in the world of tech, it’s hard to form even preliminary impressions without a fair amount of hands-on time. The bottom line with Kumo or any other would-be Googlekiller will ultimately be whether it helps you find relevant information more quickly than Google. Which would require that it make dramatic strides over Live Search, which usually leaves me less than completely satisfied when I use it. (I’m willing to confront the possibility that I’m so comfortable with Google that its style of results, and my understanding of how to form queries that will get me what I want, influence my impression of other search engines–but even taking that into account, Live Search results usually feel less far smart and refined than Google ones. To me, at least.)

Can we all agree that everyone involved would be best served if the weird tango between Microsoft and Yahoo ended soon–either with a breakup or with marriage? Kumo may be a Japanese word for cloud, but until the question of whether Microsoft and Yahoo will work together on search is resolved, there’s a little gloomy raincloud lurking above Microsoft’s homegrown search efforts, such as Kumo. Or whatever it ends up being called.


Microsoft’s Black Friday Black Eye

cashbackIf Microsoft wants to become a serious Web competitor to Google it should stop tripping over its own feet. On Black Friday, it was offering more apologies than bargains after embarrassing technical glitches incapacitated the company’s Live Search Cashback, scuttling its initiative to gain a larger share of the search market by giving searchers discounts on products they find through Live Search.

Apparently, someone in Redmond neglected to remember that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. The Cashback site was unable to cope with the heavy volume, and some customers–ones that were able to access the site at all, that is–were left with the wrong amount of cash back credited to their accounts.

One of the biggest snafus occurred when customers that were trying to take advantage of a generous 40 percent discount on HP products received as little as 3 percent cash back posted to their account, according to News.com, which also reported that Microsoft apoligized to shoppers who encountered Cashback glitches . A spokesperson told Technologizer that customers interested in following up on their Cashback rebate should contract Microsoft Live Search support to have their accounts credited.

The company’s initiative to compensate people for using its search engine began in May. Since that time, Microsoft’s share of the search business has fallen, according to multiple surveys. That’s not to say that the Live Search Cashback program is a bad idea–Microsoft is an underdog, and it needs to be creative and scrappy.

However, it had an opportunity to benefit from word of mouth had its Black Friday promotion gone well, and its failure to execute has left it at best no better off than it would have been on any given Friday.

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Kumo? C’mon, Microsoft!

I don’t think this is even a rumor yet so much as a random shard of speculation, but it’s all over the Web: Folks are wondering whether Microsoft is planning to rebrand Live Search, its confusingly-named search engine, as Kumo, a moniker it apparently controls.

I’m usually a skeptic when it comes to attempts to improve something’s chances of success by changing its name–especially when that something is owned by Microsoft, a company with a long history of replacing one clunky name with another when the real problem is that the product needs work. In this case, though, I wouldn’t argue the point–the search engine’s name is such a failure on so many levels that starting over again might make sense.

(Side note: I’m trying to remember whether the full name of the engine is “Windows Live Search”–it’s not a great sign when it’s hard to even recall a service’s name–but I can’t check right now. I’m still in Beijing, at the airport, and China, or at least the Wi-Fi network here, won’t let me get to live.com.)

Kumo apparently means “spider” or “cloud” in Japanese. (That’s according to the current scuttlebutt, and I’m not sure whether it has two meanings or nobody’s sure what the meaning is–and Google Translate doesn’t know it.) If so, it’s not without logic, but I hope the speculation is wrong. It’s a pretty lifeless name.

LiveSide, which set off the current round of Kumowatching, brings up an important point: There’s a pretty good name for a search site that Microsoft might be able to acquire if wanted to. That name would be Yahoo…


Microsoft Still Bribing Consumers to Use Live Search

What do you do when you can’t get consumers to use your product for free? You pay them to! Microsoft has introduced another incentive for Live Search users, called SearchPerks. In this program, users would receive “tickets” everytime they search. The best way to think of this is like a credit card rewards program.

To participate, consumers must visit the program website by the end of this year, and download a small application that resides within Internet Explorer. All users get 500 tickets for installing the application, and users would be able to receive a ticket for each time they launch a search query, up to a limit of 25 per day.

Microsoft says consumers would have until April 15 of next year to accumulate as many tickets as they want. Prizes range from five music downloads (from Zune?), to clothing, airline miles, and even Xbox 360 equipment.

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Ballmer Ties His Retirement to Live Search Success

Many had assumed the Ballmer era would end when his youngest child goes off to college, roughly in about a decade or so: he even hinted to that effect himself. Despite these earlier comments, the ever outspoken executive now seems to be quite frustrated over the apparent failures of Live Search, and will stay on until it becomes a success.

According to commenters in this post on Mini-Microsoft, and subsequently confirmed by Mary Jo Foley, Ballmer told employees that he would stay on as head of the company until Live Search’s market share bests Google’s.

The comment is almost unbelievable on its face. Does Ballmer really think that Microsoft will be able to turn its search fortunes around? As it stands right now, the company is going the wrong way. Web analytics firm comScore posted numbers Thursday that showed Live Search continues to lose share in the US.

For August, Microsoft garnered a 8.3 percent share, down .6 percent, while Google gained over 1 percent to finish with 63 percent of the market. Its share of queries also took a hit, down 7 percent over the previous month to 977 million. This marks the first time since May that the company has fallen below a billion queries, and follows a period where Microsoft had shown some growth.

I just cannot see at this point any viable way — short of monopolistic behavior — that will allow Microsoft to come anywhere close to equaling Google’s share of the market, much less surpass it. Maybe the Justice Department’s new-found interest in Google’s advertising practices and the threat of antitrust action may help Microsoft out, but I doubt it will do much.

Maybe the answer to whether we should really believe that Ballmer means what he says lies in understanding the man himself. Those who have watched him all know that he’s been known to make some pretty crazy statements, and his enthusiasm has been known to get the best of him at times, so maybe its best to keep in mind that this may be one of those cases. You never know, however.

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