Microsoft Puts a New Face on Live Search

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Microsoft has launched a revised version of its Windows Live Search Internet search portal, offering new improvements which integrated video and other media into search results, promise more accurate and relevant results, and maybe help the service compete with Google.

According to Microsoft, the new version of Live Search operates on an index four times larger than previous search coverage, and new technology is supposed to do a better job of understanding the "intent" of a query by better handling spelling errors, typos, stop words, ambiguous synonyms, and even changing the customer’s query in cases where the engine is "confident" it knows what the customer is really trying to find. Microsoft is also incorporating "click stream" data as users examine search results to produce rankings and more-relevant search results based on that feedback.

Users will also find richer search results, with Microsoft extracting core data about products, businesses, personalities, and more, and presenting them right in the search results listings. Microsoft is also including specialized "answer" content from Encarta, sports news, Yellow Pages, stocks, entertainment news, weather, and images into the main search interface so users looking for a quick, specific answer might be able to find it on the basic search results page. Microsoft is also increasing content available from "high-interest verticals," specifically the areas of local news, health, shopping, and entertainment.

"With this update to Live Search, our engineering focus is on the areas that matter most to our 185 million consumers who use our service every month," said Satya Nadella, corporate VP of Microsoft’s Search and Advertising Platform Group, in a statement. "We know what kinds of things consumers are searching for, and we have invested in those key high-interest verticals. [..] With the core platform in place we intend to win customers and earn their loyalty one query at a time."

Microsoft’s changes to Live Search are similar to improvements rolled out earlier this year by Google and Ask.com; Yahoo is working on similar changes.

The Redmond company’s challenge is first to get more people using Windows Live Search; it says the first step to doing that is to establish Live Search as a credible competitor to the likes of Google, and it believes the expanded index coverage and integrated content do just that. Microsoft plans to release updates to the search product every six months.

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