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!

Comments

  1. Will Microsoft ever get anything right with Live Search, why can’t they just accept they have made a mistake with the Cashback Program, and let’s face it their search results aren’t that reliable. I love how Microsoft believe they are close to both Yahoo and Google in relevance!

  2. Will Microsoft ever get anything right with Live Search, why can’t they just accept they have made a mistake with the Cashback Program, and let’s face it their search results aren’t that reliable. I love how Microsoft believe they are close to both Yahoo and Google in relevance!

  3. fast company tv seems to be down right now.

    i’ll check in again later. this sounds like a great interview and i am quite interested in it.

  4. From reading between the lines on one of the last Gate+Balmer inteviews, I’ve determined that Microsoft is not after Google in search. They are simply providing search to 1) get a piece of the huge advertising pie 2) stay current on tech in that area 3) keep Google on their toes so the area stays innovative and 4) provide another search provider to diversify the market as a partially altruistic act in favor of the consumer. You don’t have to kill Google in search to make millions/billions in advertising, just have a part of the crowd coming your way. So long as MS makes more off search than they spend then I doubt their care. All they are doing at this point is keeping their head above water, while taking a few punches at the guy holding them under.

  5. From reading between the lines on one of the last Gate+Balmer inteviews, I’ve determined that Microsoft is not after Google in search. They are simply providing search to 1) get a piece of the huge advertising pie 2) stay current on tech in that area 3) keep Google on their toes so the area stays innovative and 4) provide another search provider to diversify the market as a partially altruistic act in favor of the consumer. You don’t have to kill Google in search to make millions/billions in advertising, just have a part of the crowd coming your way. So long as MS makes more off search than they spend then I doubt their care. All they are doing at this point is keeping their head above water, while taking a few punches at the guy holding them under.

  6. got as far as 6 minutes once, and only the opening twice … i have a fast connection, wondering about the fastcompany side of things

  7. got as far as 6 minutes once, and only the opening twice … i have a fast connection, wondering about the fastcompany side of things

  8. A similarly naive question is why Google needs to be in the mobile phone OS, social networking or office productivity businesses…is it because someone else is making money at it?

  9. A similarly naive question is why Google needs to be in the mobile phone OS, social networking or office productivity businesses…is it because someone else is making money at it?

  10. Fair response Dare, and you know the answer.

    I guess since google (salesforce/apps for domain) is starting to present options that may eventually eat into MS profit centers (Office, Exchange, etc.), MS would like to present options that could eat into google profit centers.

    I guess it will be some start-up that changes the game…

  11. Fair response Dare, and you know the answer.

    I guess since google (salesforce/apps for domain) is starting to present options that may eventually eat into MS profit centers (Office, Exchange, etc.), MS would like to present options that could eat into google profit centers.

    I guess it will be some start-up that changes the game…

  12. Because Google is built on the web, that web M$ tried to destroy since they abandoned IE development, sabotaged every standards committee to move the web forward and now comes under a sheep skin trying to convince us they have good intentions.

    No matter what M$ does they have zero support from me, I want them to fail miserably.

    {OSX and Ubuntu supporter}

  13. Because Google is built on the web, that web M$ tried to destroy since they abandoned IE development, sabotaged every standards committee to move the web forward and now comes under a sheep skin trying to convince us they have good intentions.

    No matter what M$ does they have zero support from me, I want them to fail miserably.

    {OSX and Ubuntu supporter}

  14. It cant be a good interview when you do non confront the interviewees.

    You have to be civil because they are giving you their time and you want to continue to be on good terms with them and their companies

    But the interview is bullshit….

    MSN is crap by today’s standards. They just dont have the skills to do anything with it. It will always be the least relevant of all the search engines.

    This must be a humbling experience for Gates and Balmer. For years they have been threatening to beat Google – FOR YEARS!!

    This is their first major lost and they can not deal with it.

    MSN has not established a rapport with the users. They do not give probing interviews – just marketing crap.

    They do not have rapport with Webmasters and have made no attempt to establish communication.

    Everyone is afraid to speak.

    You are even too afraid to ask tough questions and call a dud a dud.

    Them them their search sucks! Dont let them bullshit you – they have to face reality

  15. It cant be a good interview when you do non confront the interviewees.

    You have to be civil because they are giving you their time and you want to continue to be on good terms with them and their companies

    But the interview is bullshit….

    MSN is crap by today’s standards. They just dont have the skills to do anything with it. It will always be the least relevant of all the search engines.

    This must be a humbling experience for Gates and Balmer. For years they have been threatening to beat Google – FOR YEARS!!

    This is their first major lost and they can not deal with it.

    MSN has not established a rapport with the users. They do not give probing interviews – just marketing crap.

    They do not have rapport with Webmasters and have made no attempt to establish communication.

    Everyone is afraid to speak.

    You are even too afraid to ask tough questions and call a dud a dud.

    Them them their search sucks! Dont let them bullshit you – they have to face reality

  16. I’m sorry Microsoft, but what a load of crap.

    When you kick off an interview with the assertion that a search engine can’t tell what is meant by ‘Paris’ … wow, just wow.

    First, if I search for Paris, yes, the search engine can easily know what I want.

    If I wanted any other Paris than The Paris, I would put in a more fully specified search. It’s not like Hilton is hard to spell or type. If I really wanted her, I would put in her full name. If I really wanted the one in Texas, I would put in Paris Texas. What do you think is so difficult here?

    And if the search engine made the wrong guess when I just type in Paris (and gave me something other than Paris, France) then I can just resubmit with Paris France.

    This isn’t hard, people.

    You are looking for places to add value, but you’re looking in the wrong places.

    It reminds me of another example someone once used to point out the “difficulty” of disambiguating search terms: apple. The claim was, if the user wanted to search for information about apples, they would put in ‘apple’ and get back hits on the company in Cupertino.

    No, they wouldn’t.

    Duh.

    Because if they wanted information on apples, they would type apples, not apple.

    How highly-paid, well-educated people who are supposed to think deeply about this stuff all day long can totally miss such obvious clues, is something that continues to escape me.

    After less than 30 seconds of the interview, I already find myself saying “phfffft. forget this… next.” Thank dog I didn’t waste more time on it. Other than typing this rant, that is.

    How can you expect to build a winning product or service on this kind of thinking?

  17. I’m sorry Microsoft, but what a load of crap.

    When you kick off an interview with the assertion that a search engine can’t tell what is meant by ‘Paris’ … wow, just wow.

    First, if I search for Paris, yes, the search engine can easily know what I want.

    If I wanted any other Paris than The Paris, I would put in a more fully specified search. It’s not like Hilton is hard to spell or type. If I really wanted her, I would put in her full name. If I really wanted the one in Texas, I would put in Paris Texas. What do you think is so difficult here?

    And if the search engine made the wrong guess when I just type in Paris (and gave me something other than Paris, France) then I can just resubmit with Paris France.

    This isn’t hard, people.

    You are looking for places to add value, but you’re looking in the wrong places.

    It reminds me of another example someone once used to point out the “difficulty” of disambiguating search terms: apple. The claim was, if the user wanted to search for information about apples, they would put in ‘apple’ and get back hits on the company in Cupertino.

    No, they wouldn’t.

    Duh.

    Because if they wanted information on apples, they would type apples, not apple.

    How highly-paid, well-educated people who are supposed to think deeply about this stuff all day long can totally miss such obvious clues, is something that continues to escape me.

    After less than 30 seconds of the interview, I already find myself saying “phfffft. forget this… next.” Thank dog I didn’t waste more time on it. Other than typing this rant, that is.

    How can you expect to build a winning product or service on this kind of thinking?

  18. Seems to me that something big in search has to happen soon. Google is basically 10 year old technology that is simply uses some heuristic for ranking. The heuristic is good, don’t get me wrong, but no one seems to be able to crack “relevance” better than google. Of all the potential competitors out there, Microsoft has a great opportunity because, even they might not be the most innovative, they are definitely the smartest, by which I mean they are the most empirically (not religiously) based. Specifically, Microsoft has a history of planned, methodical execution (as opposed to say, Twitter, which as history shows, does work once in a while), and if they can truly build a search engine that returns more relevant results, they may be able to actually pull it off. I suspect, however, that they’ll simply try to beat Google using the same old search paradigm, which is to enter search terms, use some heuristic to pull out the relevant hits, and display them in a list. So, I predict fail.

  19. Seems to me that something big in search has to happen soon. Google is basically 10 year old technology that is simply uses some heuristic for ranking. The heuristic is good, don’t get me wrong, but no one seems to be able to crack “relevance” better than google. Of all the potential competitors out there, Microsoft has a great opportunity because, even they might not be the most innovative, they are definitely the smartest, by which I mean they are the most empirically (not religiously) based. Specifically, Microsoft has a history of planned, methodical execution (as opposed to say, Twitter, which as history shows, does work once in a while), and if they can truly build a search engine that returns more relevant results, they may be able to actually pull it off. I suspect, however, that they’ll simply try to beat Google using the same old search paradigm, which is to enter search terms, use some heuristic to pull out the relevant hits, and display them in a list. So, I predict fail.

  20. google is just frustrating. they speak about open web, and when they sign deals with yahoo! and begin monopolizing the search industry thats not “closed” model at all right? google just likes to make noise about things, and when they do the same thing its all okay.

    i still love using google search, but every other google product has no value to me. google docs/spreadsheets/presentation, gmail (no folders wah???, thats not innovation), dont use those at all. and be honest half the things google calls its own, were never technologies they started or innovated at creating. youtube, orkut, picasa, they just by companies, put the google brand on them, and call it something new and splendid and we have individuals raving about it. i dont even have to write anything about microsoft not being innovative because the rest of the world can take care of that for me, at much larger degree than needed. MS deserves credit at times, and people should do it. thats my rave for the day.

  21. google is just frustrating. they speak about open web, and when they sign deals with yahoo! and begin monopolizing the search industry thats not “closed” model at all right? google just likes to make noise about things, and when they do the same thing its all okay.

    i still love using google search, but every other google product has no value to me. google docs/spreadsheets/presentation, gmail (no folders wah???, thats not innovation), dont use those at all. and be honest half the things google calls its own, were never technologies they started or innovated at creating. youtube, orkut, picasa, they just by companies, put the google brand on them, and call it something new and splendid and we have individuals raving about it. i dont even have to write anything about microsoft not being innovative because the rest of the world can take care of that for me, at much larger degree than needed. MS deserves credit at times, and people should do it. thats my rave for the day.

  22. @SearchEngines,

    I agree with your overall concept. Scoble is basically the Larry King of online video interviewing. No research of his guests, just like King. See:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZfUgVSfKdQ, for an example.

    Scoble, seriously, your interviews are like infomercials. I have an idea. Not to take advantage of the untimely death of Tim Russert, but watch some Meet the Press shows Russert did. He asked probing well researched questions without coming across as confrontational. I know your response will be “I’ve neither the time nor resources Russert had”. True, but that’s not the point. The point is, you rarely, if ever, call bullshit in a respectful manner with you guests. I’m sure it’s because you are afraid they will sully your name and fear that people will not want to appear on your ”show”. Well, guess what? Everyone, on both sides of aisle, respected Russert and clamored to get on Meet the Press. I suggest quantity over quality. Do more research on your subjects. Theres a difference between probing questions, and fawning questions.

  23. @SearchEngines,

    I agree with your overall concept. Scoble is basically the Larry King of online video interviewing. No research of his guests, just like King. See:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZfUgVSfKdQ, for an example.

    Scoble, seriously, your interviews are like infomercials. I have an idea. Not to take advantage of the untimely death of Tim Russert, but watch some Meet the Press shows Russert did. He asked probing well researched questions without coming across as confrontational. I know your response will be “I’ve neither the time nor resources Russert had”. True, but that’s not the point. The point is, you rarely, if ever, call bullshit in a respectful manner with you guests. I’m sure it’s because you are afraid they will sully your name and fear that people will not want to appear on your ”show”. Well, guess what? Everyone, on both sides of aisle, respected Russert and clamored to get on Meet the Press. I suggest quantity over quality. Do more research on your subjects. Theres a difference between probing questions, and fawning questions.

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  25. Jerry: I did a lot of research on Microsoft’s search. I used to work there, remember. I asked a lot of very specific questions and I think the answers stand on their own. I don’t need to point out that he’s wrong or be a jerk. The audience can see that all on their own and they also can see that Google is kicking their behinds. I won’t please everyone anyway. If I start saying “there’s no way that’ll work” then other people will jump on me for not giving the guy a chance. I’ll just be myself. I do note that it’s interesting that the people who are willing to sign their own names to things, like Mary, liked the interview for the most part.

  26. Jerry: I did a lot of research on Microsoft’s search. I used to work there, remember. I asked a lot of very specific questions and I think the answers stand on their own. I don’t need to point out that he’s wrong or be a jerk. The audience can see that all on their own and they also can see that Google is kicking their behinds. I won’t please everyone anyway. If I start saying “there’s no way that’ll work” then other people will jump on me for not giving the guy a chance. I’ll just be myself. I do note that it’s interesting that the people who are willing to sign their own names to things, like Mary, liked the interview for the most part.

  27. is something that continues to escape me.

    Nothing is so invisible as the obvious, amazes me too, but then I’d hafta slam my head into raw concrete before I’d ever come up with a logical conclusion for 90% of what passes as “knowledge” in these circles.

    Cluster theory, is my best explanation, NYC leftist/journalist Marxists, Valley Geeks, Microsoftites — everyone around them, thinks and acts the same way, so after awhile their view of reality distorts, and fuses itself into the bloodstream. But it’s also the “intellectual” disease, a simple problem, with a simple answer, but no, can’t have that, wouldn’t be fitting of their advanced degrees and celebrated work history, so you create a million differing scenarios, and try and solve all these self-created phantoms.

  28. is something that continues to escape me.

    Nothing is so invisible as the obvious, amazes me too, but then I’d hafta slam my head into raw concrete before I’d ever come up with a logical conclusion for 90% of what passes as “knowledge” in these circles.

    Cluster theory, is my best explanation, NYC leftist/journalist Marxists, Valley Geeks, Microsoftites — everyone around them, thinks and acts the same way, so after awhile their view of reality distorts, and fuses itself into the bloodstream. But it’s also the “intellectual” disease, a simple problem, with a simple answer, but no, can’t have that, wouldn’t be fitting of their advanced degrees and celebrated work history, so you create a million differing scenarios, and try and solve all these self-created phantoms.

  29. Robert. I did not know you worked in the search division. It was my understand you were given a job in the Evangelist group because you had really no product skilsl. They stuck a camera under your arms and said “I dunno, go around and interview people”. We you a developer?, a tester? or a PM in the search group?

    I’m not saying I didn’t like the interview. Kudos at scoring such a high level exec at Microsoft. That doesn’t mean there is not room for constructive criticism. Hell, I’ve seen some interesting infomercials I like, too. Nor am I saying you should “act like a jerk” I’m not saying you should be Mike Wallace, Bill O’Reilly, Chris Matthews, etc. Those guys are jerks. Larry King is simply and idiot. Russert, on the other hand, was a neutral as he could possibly be in his interviews. He researched his subjects and brought of things they had said in the past and wanted to know if that position still stood. I’m sure there are many quotes Brad has said in the past regarding search that could have been used to question what his real strategy is. and if there are things that he said that are flat out wrong or no longer apply. YOU don’t point out he’s wrong. You let him respond based on your questioning and the answer becomes pretty obvious. The audience will know if he’s tap dancing or not. You, as the interviewer, should never inject your opinions. On the other hand, softball questions don’t really tend to draw out the subject much.

  30. Robert. I did not know you worked in the search division. It was my understand you were given a job in the Evangelist group because you had really no product skilsl. They stuck a camera under your arms and said “I dunno, go around and interview people”. We you a developer?, a tester? or a PM in the search group?

    I’m not saying I didn’t like the interview. Kudos at scoring such a high level exec at Microsoft. That doesn’t mean there is not room for constructive criticism. Hell, I’ve seen some interesting infomercials I like, too. Nor am I saying you should “act like a jerk” I’m not saying you should be Mike Wallace, Bill O’Reilly, Chris Matthews, etc. Those guys are jerks. Larry King is simply and idiot. Russert, on the other hand, was a neutral as he could possibly be in his interviews. He researched his subjects and brought of things they had said in the past and wanted to know if that position still stood. I’m sure there are many quotes Brad has said in the past regarding search that could have been used to question what his real strategy is. and if there are things that he said that are flat out wrong or no longer apply. YOU don’t point out he’s wrong. You let him respond based on your questioning and the answer becomes pretty obvious. The audience will know if he’s tap dancing or not. You, as the interviewer, should never inject your opinions. On the other hand, softball questions don’t really tend to draw out the subject much.