Saturday, August 16, 2008

WANNABEs

After a very long time, I was catching up with the news and happenings of the technology world thanks to the three day Independence Day weekend. I read this post on WATBLOG about Live Search and its new features. It is titled "Microsoft Live Search - will it steal the show?". I just wanted to discuss whatever has been written.

I always knew LIVE Search’s algorithm was as good as the other alternatives (Read:Google) - I had done enough trail-n-error to prove this - but users have been slow in adopting.

The author says that LIVE's search algorithm was as good as other alternatives (Read:Google). Every now and then when I get bored, I do test the prominent players in search to see whether anyone has caught up with Google. I did this recently when Cuil was launched and hailed as David who would take down Goliath. Of course, the results were far from satisfactory. Nothing compared to Google! Yahoo was pretty reasonable and Live Search wasn't as bad as it was 6-7 months back. And Cuil was over-hyped, thought they have improved a lot since then.

But when I read the post on WATBLOG, I decided to test once again and put up the results for people to decide. The latest hero for India is our very own Abhinav Bindra. Lets see how does Live Search fare against Google when you Search Abhinav Bindra (supposedly its algorithm is as good).

 

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First, let us look at Live Search. It gives information about him from NBCOlympics.com. Cool! Isn't it? That is what one would think. But if you knew that NBC is using Silverlight for its Olympics site, you can easily do the Math as to why that particular site is showing as the first result. It is not the result of the as good algorithm used by Live Search, but is actually a strategy to get as many desktops installed with Silverlight as possible. That is why nbcolympics comes at the top. Secondly, the next result that you see is that of wikipedia. The snapshot shows that Abhinav was born in the year 1983. I will come this later. Thirdly, I went till the third page to see if his blog has been listed in the results. But why should it be? Our as good algorithm does not see it fit to be listed in the first three pages.

Let us now have a look at what Google gives us.

 

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As you can see, Google gives the first Links as News Results and a YouTube link before that but very nicely places it as a Sponsored Link. But that is insignificant, and people's views on it will always differ. What I am concerned about are the results! Even here you get the first link as Wikipedia but a closer look reveals that Abhinav's year of birth to be 1982. How is this possible, as both results point to the same page? That is because the Google results are the latest. Also, his blog is listed in the first page as the fifth result. While the champ is not giving the TV media any masala to broadcast and is happy to be himself, he is connecting to his many fans and well wishers through his blog. While this really is an example of the power of Web 2.0, his blog is not listed in the results of our as good algorithm.

And not just with Abhinav Bindra, try any other search term and you will find that Google lies way ahead of Microsoft. When you search for any ASP.NET related query, Google would give you forums.asp.net in its first page and would always give a result which you are looking for. Live Search did not even show forums.asp.net in its first three pages till recently. However, they have improved but still have a very long way to go.

The usability changes done to the LIVE search are just wonderful. Add a lot of value to the user.

I have to agree that the Video and Image Search was indeed impressive. They are certainly trying new things or as one would say in Hindi "Haanth Paon to maar rahe hain".It will be interesting to see how do they fare but without a competetive algorithm, presentation is going to be useless.

Local Search

Hmmm, three taps in my room were leaking today. Stuff in my room were floating. I wanted a plumber. Heck, I needed a plumber. I didn’t know just hours later, I;m gonna witness something which could have helped me. Googling for plumbers in Mumbai is hardly useful, as you might know. So, what ? Well, plumbers in Bandra is what I was looking for. This was exactly what was demonstrated to me by Ravi, today at Microsoft. Putting in a search query like this, gives you names and numbers of the relevant services in that area. I actually noted down a number.

Although it’s not actually a unique feature. Asklaila has been doing it for ages now. And even Google local results can show you ones. Just that Microsoft LIVE search results were more relevant and they could be done right from the main Live.com interface. You don’t need to know of a different sub domain (like local.google.com) to perform the search. An incremental improvement.

Googling for plumbers in Mumbai is hardly useful, as you might know.  Well that is exactly what I did!

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But first let us look at Live results. It does give local listings with address and phone numbers. But it gives only three results. No link for more results or similar results. What about Google?

image It gives about 12 results with phone numbers but without any addresses. But it does give you a more results link.And mind you I did not do a local search from a subdomain. And what happens when you click on it?

image It takes you to local.google.co.in and gives you 218 results with addresses and phone numbers. Isnt that better? And since we are talking about relevant local results I tried another thing which really was the nail on the coffin for the as good alogrithm. I searched for "The Dark Knight in Bangalore" in both Live Search and Google. The results are below.

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Just one result for Live Search. And Google....

image ..gives me the show timings for cinemas in Bangalore along with about 105,000 results. Phew!

So there you are! Now what prompted me to write this article? People might think that I am one of those Google fans and Microsoft haters. Well I am not! Google is simply a far better search engine at this point than any other, and Microsoft knows this. That is why all the hullabaloo to buy Yahoo! It is playing catch up but still has a long way to go. But it certainly does have the capability to play a hard game. Just look at them! From OSs to Databases to Enterprise Software to Developer Tools, they are everywhere.

But what really peeved me was this. The author has written a lot of misleading things and the tone of the post is completely biased. And he is not ready to acknowledge this!

Wherever I see, I just find WANNABE's!

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