Finding relevant information quickly and painlessly is a constant challenge for consumers, made more difficult by the proliferation of information types, sources and storage locations that pervade our lives today. Every day, people must make choices about where to look for information they need: a phone number and address for a local business or friend, an e-mail attachment that was saved several months ago “just in case,” or the answer to a difficult question. Once they find what they are looking for, people make choices about whether to share it and with whom, and how and where to save it — preferably in a location where they can find it again later.
Whether people are at the desktop computer level, the corporate intranet, or the broader expanse of the Internet, quickly finding the right information is a quest that frustrates many, regardless of how sophisticated or simple their technical ability may be. Microsoft Corp. has a long, well-known history of innovation and a long-held goal of putting access to information at people’s fingertips through Software plus Services. As the need to search for information has evolved from the simpler task of finding a local file on a PC to the more complex needs of finding text or attachments in e-mail messages or content on the Internet, Microsoft’s search strategy and offerings have also evolved.
This document and accompanying Microsoft® Office PowerPoint® presentation were designed to provide a milestone update on Microsoft’s search strategy as delivered by Live Search, which came out of beta in September 2006. With an algorithmic search engine and user-focused interface developed from the ground up, Live Search is an early showcase of the Windows Live™ customer experience.
A Foundation for Windows Live Software plus Services
The inherent customer problem of finding and managing information was key to the development of Microsoft’s Windows Live software and services strategy. Windows Live is a new set of personal Internet services and software from Microsoft designed to bring together in one place all the relationships, information and interests that people care about most. Initial Windows Live services entered an early beta phase on Nov. 1, 2005, and Microsoft continued to rapidly release innovative Windows Live services throughout 2006. Many Windows Live services in beta form can be used directly from http://www.live.com (Live.com), and future beta updates can be found at http://ideas.live.com.
Live Search is a cornerstone of the Windows Live strategy.
In 2004, when Microsoft embarked on building an entirely new search engine and service from the ground up, the company had a vision that included both tapping into the increasingly lucrative search advertising business and creating a flexible foundation for Software plus Services that would enable consumers to realize the power of the information era.
The core customer promise for Live Search is to help people find everything they want online, fast. Receiving a million links to potential results in a millisecond is not nearly as helpful as finding what you are looking for quickly. Customer research has consistently revealed that consumers still spend an average of nearly 10 minutes for a single Internet search before either finding what they need or abandoning their quest altogether.
The following are the key tenets gleaned from customer research that played a significant role in Live Search development:
Integrate search throughout the user experience. Customers want quick access to information, and they want it fast. Access to Live Search is woven throughout the customer experience, much like a utility, helping to put everything the customer needs online in one place to make it easy to find what they need, fast.
Improve relevance by giving the user increased control and customization. Live Search delivers powerful user-controlled features and a unique design to help customers search the way they want so they can find the information they need. Live Search gives users a degree of control over their search experience so they can quickly find information that is important to them. Powering search on Live.com and MSN®, Live Search allows customers to narrow their search to specific vertical categories, including the all-new image search, video search, news search, RSS feeds, Live QnA and local search.
Provide immersive global mapping and local search. Live Search offers rich global mapping capability so consumers can find and explore information and maps for people and businesses, all in one place. Live Search Maps offers White Pages and Yellow Pages listings; road, 2-D or 3-D aerial satellite, or hybrid views; driving directions; real-time traffic conditions; printing, sharing and mobile search capabilities; and more.
Live Search enables users to find information fast, whether it is Web content, images, news, maps, phone numbers, videos or satellite photos.
Live Search: Just There, Like a Utility, Powering the Windows Live Experience
Because search — whether on the Web, local PC or corporate intranet, or in the local community — has become a more central need in our daily lives, Live Search is smartly woven throughout the Windows Live experience, like a seamless utility that enables people to find what they want, fast, no matter what they are working on at the time. It is just there.
Whether via a window at the top of their Windows Live Space, a gadget on their Live.com home page, a link at the bottom of the Windows Live Messenger pane, a button in the Messenger conversation window, or any of several other entry points, Live Search is available to help people find whatever they need from virtually wherever they happen to be working or playing.
In addition, Live.com can be personalized as a search home page to provide Windows Live customers with a single place to find information such as favorite Web sites, blogs, news and maps. Customers can personalize their Live.com home page by dragging and dropping their favorite content from millions of sources of information, including content modules and gadgets from the Windows Live Gallery and RSS feeds of their choice. Live.com allows users to have all the information they want integrated in one place on the page, or on multiple pages they create, each uniquely tailored to a part of their own life and interests.
Holistic Approach to Relevance and User Control
While the Live Search team at Microsoft continues working to improve search-results relevance, Microsoft believes that innovations and improvements in Live Search and the Microsoft-built algorithmic search engine delivered in September 2006 have brought Live Search to a more level playing field with other search providers.
While having a rock-solid core algorithmic engine is critical, the engine itself is not enough to truly meet the needs of today’s consumers on the Internet, especially those who rely on the Internet for communication, information and entertainment as a key part of their daily life. Many search services now take a mathematically driven approach to relevance by focusing on index size and delivery speed of results, rather than a person-driven approach that measures whether the actual information being looked for was delivered. Microsoft does not believe relevance is defined by math; rather, it is defined by people and their experience, and likely has a unique meaning for every searcher.
To help address this unique human need, Live Search has been built to bring high levels of control and personalization to the Web experience to help all users find what they need, fast. Live Search provides a personal search experience in which customers can use Live Search to find, customize and track news, images, video, RSS feeds and blogs across the Web.
Microsoft takes a holistic approach to relevance, focusing on the whole page and taking into account much more than how results are ranked, concentrating on what consumers see on the whole page to help make the results relevant to their needs.
Examples of improving relevance are apparent in the overall page design. Great thought has gone into the placement of ads based on an understanding of user behavior. Live Search provides customers with related searches, offers suggested spelling corrections, and has a clean interface that clearly separates sponsored results from search results.
Other useful tools that help give users more control over their results are evident in Live Search Images and are detailed in the next section.
Additional ongoing work “under the hood” includes expanded data sources and improved index quality, ranked algorithms, query segmentation, and spam filtering.
Microsoft feels good about the strides it has made in Live Search relevance and will continue to make it even better.
Live Search Highlights
The customizable user interface in Live Search gives users added control to customize their search experience and quickly find information that is important to them. Powering search on Live.com and MSN, Live Search offers a search bar that helps people find relevant results fast by allowing them to view search results segmented by type — such as Web pages, maps and directions, news articles, feeds, images and videos — without the need to re-enter the same query each time or to leave the page.
Live.com customers can customize their home page content, create multiple pages based on their interests, and add their favorite content from millions of sources of information.
Live Search Images is particularly powerful, enabling people to view a large collection of images quickly and easily without clicking through multiple Web pages. Useful tools that help people find and view search results for images and save them in a collection for later use or share them with others include smart scroll, thumbnail image-sizing customization, filmstrip view, and the ability to hover with a mouse to see the full image without leaving the results page.
Live Search Custom Search is a powerful tool for creating custom search engines (also called macros) or using customizations created by others with similar interests to help make searches more relevant to the user. More than 10,000 custom search engines are already available for use on the Windows Live Gallery.
Live Search News allows users to focus their search results on news to help them keep abreast of current events. Information includes news source, date and time (within the previous 24 hours), news abstract, and a link to the news story.
Live Search Video allows users to search for and browse online video content from within the Live.com platform. Information includes video source, length and format.
Live Search Academic allows customers to search through academic information and journals, including computer science, engineering and physics journals and newly added biomedical content. Live Search Academic helps researchers, university faculty, librarians and students quickly and effectively conduct research across a range of academic journals. Live Search Academic is available in 48 languages and includes features that let users preview content, choose their detail level, sort results and use tools such as a citation exporter, which complements research activity rather than detracting from it.
Live Search Feeds allows users to search for and subscribe to RSS feeds. Choosing Feeds on the search results under the More drop-down menu limits search results to RSS feeds. Users can click the Add to Live.com link to add a feed to their Live.com home page.
LiveSearchBooksis advancing the way people search online by digitizing and indexing information from printed material from around the world.
Live Search Instant Answers provides real answers in direct response to questions. Answers never replace Web results; rather, they appear above results when relevant and are flagged with a blue check box, adding value on top of the Web results. Instant answers are available for searches related to sports, movies, finance, area codes, news, local listings, weather, package tracking, music, math, health, holidays, dictionary terms, Encarta®, shopping and more.
Live QnA brings into the search experience a community of real people who can help answer a customer’s toughest questions. Live QnA enables customers to ask and answer questions to further the social networking experience at Live.com.
Live Toolbar provides access to the Live Search platform from any Web page. A detailed reviewers guide for Live Toolbar is available at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/newsroom/msn/default.mspx.
Live Search Maps combines global mapping, directions and immersive satellite 2-D and 3-D imagery with local search functionality to help users find and explore places and businesses. A detailed reviewers guide for Live Search Maps is available at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/newsroom/msn/default.mspx.
Live Search is the delivery of the core investment Microsoft has made over recent years in developing its own engine coupled with an entirely new search experience — one that is more than an engine, a toolbar or a search page.
Live Search is a significant advancement in Microsoft’s search strategy and in the delivery of the Windows Live software and services strategy. Live Search helps people search the way they want to and find what they need, fast.
The new design — with rich viewing and customization tools, extensive and deep search categories such as image and maps and local search, and customized searches — helps people customize search results by preference.
Live.com brings Live Search and the customer’s online world together, providing people with a single place to find everything they need, such as Web sites, news, maps, phone numbers, satellite photos and PC files.
Customers can go to http://www.live.com to get started.
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