Daily Archives: June 15, 2008

Will Microsoft Search use Mahalo techniques to change the game?

On Thursday I interviewed a few executives at Microsoft. A few of those videos will have to wait in line (we have two weeks of inventory that needs to get done first) but because of the Yahoo/Google deal I think this one needed to be out ASAP so Rocky Barbanica did a ultra fast edit (using two cameras causes a lot more work than stuff done on my cell phone).

Here Brad Goldberg, general manager of Microsoft’s Search Business Group (aka the folks who do Windows Live Search) talked with me very candidly about the challenge the Windows Live search team faces from Google. This is the most candid conversation I’ve seen a Microsoft executive give about search. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny Sullivan, Kara Swisher, Jason Calacanis will say about this.

Already there’s quite a conversation (including links to my earlier Mahalo interviews) over here on FriendFeed.

Here’s an outline of what we talked about.

00:00: How are you going to compete with Google and do something different? Discussion of cash back plans and opportunity to make search better. “Enter in a search query for ‘Paris’ and there’s no way for a search engine to really know what you want.”
03:00 Discussion of the quality of search and how it compares to Google. Where are you and how are you improving? Brad says that the three search engines are pretty close to parity in relevance/quality. He said their research shows that the #1 thing people care about is relevance (how relevant a search result is to what they were searching for). Says search is going to be more task-specific and that search can play a much bigger role there, especially in commerce, which is what their first hit against Google was with cash back.
06:42 What about the other fundamentals? Speed, language compatibility, design? Brad says that Microsoft will need to take a lot of risks to get ahead here.
08:46 What about mobile? Brad says mapping, local, things like movie times, will play a big role in search, but that he thinks that they’ll mostly focus on the desktop experience.
11:00 What are you going to do to change the game over the next year? Brad answers “it’ll be a set of things.” Great relevance, focus on commerce/cash back/rewarding people for search behavior, and other things.
14:00 Ask how Microsoft is going to convince late adopters to use Microsoft Search. I tell a story about how it took me years to get my dad to use Google. Brad says that Google is the only brand that has equity in search. Says that most people don’t even know there’s a choice.
17:15 What about the weirder things? People search? Brad brings up Messenger and says they could do a lot more to bring people into search.
19:00 Discussion of Facebook’s walled garden and how they could enable Microsoft to search inside their service where Google is kept out.
19:59 What about media, like videos? Very few of the search results have any media like photos or videos. Brad answers back that they are doing some video preview technology that condenses the video and gives you a taste so you can make sure that the video you’re seeing in search is the right one. Talks about UI work that’s needed here.
22:30 Discussion of weather maps and stock quote charts built into search. Further discussion into how people use search and more opportunities to improve quality.
24:37 Have you looked at what Mahalo is doing? A discussion of what makes Mahalo better than Google or Yahoo on many searches. That leads Brad to talk about the difference between portals and search and what he thinks the right approach will be.
28:00 How about real-time Web like Twitter, FriendFeed? (I remember when it took more than a month for Yahoo to index my site, now Google takes hours, if not faster, and FriendFeed indexes new items within seconds). Brad has an interesting answer where he says that search will verticalize.
Ends at 31:56.

If you think this interview is good, please Digg it, Sphinn it, link to it on your blog, and Twitter it. Thanks!