Microsoft famously made an drawn-out and ultimately unsuccessful $45+ billion bid to take over Yahoo more than a year ago—and a large part of Microsoft’s interest in the Internet giant was its search business, which is second only to Google in market share. (Albeit Yahoo is a distant second: Google accounts for roughly two thirds of the Internet search market, Yahoo accounts for about 20 percent, and Microsoft and players like AOL and Ask.com duke out it for the remainders.) Although rumors persist that Microsoft would still like to make a deal with Yahoo—more likely to take over only the search business rather than Yahoo’s entire operation—the Redmond company appears to have a backup plan: Microsoft has launched internal testing on an update to its Live Search product, codenamed Kumo, currently available only within the company’s internal network.
First reported in the Wall Street Journal‘s All Things Digital blog, the Kumo service is intended to help users “accomplish tasks” rather than merely click on search results. The service features an explorer pane on the left side of the results listings with ostensibly-related search terms and tools to help users refine or manage their search; search refinement features vary with searches, so one search might offer links to let users see related images and videos, while another might emphasize related links and businesses. The search results listings also attempt to organize results into clear categories, where possible—although, of course, the ordering of the categories might mean that the thing a search user most wants is shuffled to the bottom of the pack. And, of course, the listings features sponsors links and text-based ads—because there’s no point in offering a search service unless Microsoft can sell it to advertisers. Kumo also features a session history so users can easily find and return to previous search hits.
Microsoft hasn’t announced when—of if—Kumo might see the light of day, but the company is already making its employees eat their own dog food, redirecting in-house search traffic from Live Search to Kumo to see what people think. Of course, it’s not really much of a secret that the most-used search engine on Microsoft’s internal network is…um, Google.
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