I am at SMX Advanced in Seattle this week and I was fortunate to have a one-on-one lunch with Rajesh Srivastava, the Group Program Manager for Portal Search Experience. After complimenting him and his team for finally pulling off what looks like a search engine that can compete I asked a few burning questions.
Why did Kumo (Now Bing) take so long to come out? There had been rumors of a rebranding for a while now.Apparently the site and some of the technology was ready to go last year but due to potential buyout of Yahoo the new search launch was put on hold. Only recently has Microsoft taken the brakes off and gotten the media machine running. Part of that media machine was actually the preview launch. My lunch-mate also removed any doubts that the unexpected Bing preview this weekend was anything less than a staged event to get some extra press and spin up the press machine.
I love the new image search technology that has removed the need to change pages to see more images by using a single long scrolling page (that renders more and more images as you scroll). I wondered why that brilliant idea wasn’t implemented on natural search results? After all, it seemed that would be a true newsmaker and, in my opinion, a great usability move (I hate clicking page to page). His answer was rather surprising. Apparently during user testing Microsoft discovered that the single page search result method worked for images but not for natural search results because people found the information proved too overwhelming. I am not exactly sure I understand why and he didn’t offer a compelling reason - just that the studies showed users didn’t like it. Maybe once people get used to the new image search they will warm up to it.
UPDATE: Bing does include a significantly larger set of search results on the first search - far more than 10 so there are some significant changes over what is known as a standard search result.
Lastly, here is the question that may be on many of your minds.
What is up with the switch from Live Search to Bing and what is going to happen to MSN? Will Microsoft FINALLY merge them all into one brand? The short answer was YES! I immediately glowed and literally asked who got their thinking cap on… after all I am at my whits end with Microsoft’s lame branding rollercoaster. Needless to say the engineer agreed Microsoft had made its share of mistakes but is now steering a true course.
Anyway, the merge of Live.com and Bing.com has already happened (as of my last browser check) but MSN will take a little time to get merged - I didn’t get any more details on that but I will try.
UPDATE: I spent some additional time with a Bing engineer this evening and my information was corrected. Bing and Live.com will merge but MSN will stay a portal for those looking for that experience. That said, all searches through MSN are now being resolved to Bing.com. This is not as desirable as removing MSN entirely in my opinion - just for the sake of brand confusion - but I suppose it is better than nothing ??? I have to say I am not quite as enamoured with the brand merge since MSN will still exist but I suppose dropping a portal that has some loyal users is not in Microsoft’s interests right now - still playing it safe I guess.
Whatever else I was able to gleen from the discussion wasn’t all that amazing but if I remember another tidbit I will be sure to post it. Now I am off to the Microsoft party. Have a good night all. I will try to Twitter a bit tomorrow about some of my meetings and new tips, feel free to follow @stepforth for details.