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September 27, 2007

Live Search Launches Major Update

Nobody remembers exactly how many times Microsoft updated its search engine hoping to attract more users. But this time Live Search (formerly known as MSN Search and Windows Live Search) received a major update, "our biggest update since our debut in January 2005", according to its corporate blog.

Even though the update isn't yet... live, you can't still see the new version if you click on the URLs from this post. They contain a parameter that triggers the updated interface and set a cookie. To compare them with the results from the old Live Search, open a different browser and perform the same searches directly from

Old version:

New version:

The new design moves the search box to the left, transform the tabs for other search engines into links, changes the text colors and the fonts (from Verdana to Arial) and the page is easier to read. The page also loads faster because Microsoft optimized the code (7.23 KB vs 15.9KB when you search for [Google]).

Microsoft says the new index is four times bigger than the previous one, but that's not a measure for quality. As you can see in the screenshot above, Live Search 2.0 shows two spammy web pages at #3 and #4 when you search for [Google Pack]. The same pages have lower ranks in the previous version.

Microsoft updated the instant answers to show more information about celebrities, including a Celebrity XRank, which is similar to Google Hot Trends. You'll also find rich information about products from MSN Shopping.

The new video search engine shows video previews while you hover over the thumbnails. This is useful to decide if a video is right for you, but it's also very easy to accidentally trigger a video while moving your mouse on the page. Unfortunately, if you click on the thumbnail of a YouTube/MySpace/Metacafe video, Microsoft will only show the embedded player, without any description, comments, ratings. Other videos, like those from MSN Video, are played at their original page.

Live Search detecting more subtle misspellings and includes related terms by expanding your query. "The new Live Search does a much better job in predicting the intent of the query to return the best results possible. New investments improve the search service's ability to read and understand queries in a way that more accurately determines intent despite common problems such as spelling errors, stop words, punctuation and synonyms," says Microsoft in a press release.

The new ranking algorithm is closer to Google, although it seems to not be influenced too much by the number of links or their importance. A search for [Google OS] returns as the fourth result a page that was linked from this blog and very few other sites.

Live Search is still far behind Google in terms of quality, but this is the first time when Microsoft focuses on the important things: relevance, speed and user interface.

Update: Read this very cool live blogging from Microsoft's Searchification event where they launched these updates. The post was written by Vanessa Fox, a former Google employee.


  1. "Live Search is still far behind Google in terms of quality"

    Could you be any more biased? Good grief... if it's not from Google you'll find something wrong with it.

    Folks - there are much better reviews of the new out there to read. Don't waste your time with this Google-loving crap...

  2. I'm not biased. The new Live Search is even worse than the old Live Search for some queries (look at the first two screenshots: the results #3, #4 for [Google Pack] are spam sites; the top result for [Katie Holmes] is a site that only has pictures).

    This post wasn't a review and I'd love to see a better search engine than Google. But Live Search is not there yet.

  3. "Live Search is still far behind Google in terms of quality."

    In fact, it's far behind any other decent search engine. Let's search for [Google blog].

    * Google, Yahoo, Ask, Exalead: the top result is the official Google Blog

    * Live Search: the top result is Google Blog Search.

    Let's search for [Safari].

    * Google, Yahoo, Ask, Exalead: the top result is the official Safari site

    * Live Search: the top result is a Wikipedia page.

    If you can't return good results for navigational queries, which should be the easiest, then you're not a good search engine.

  4. Ionut, you are biased.

    For the "Katie Holmes" query for example, on the first results line, by selecting the video tab I can see videos with her by just hovering over the images. That IS more relevant to me than what Google returns for the same query.

    One can also presume that most people are interested in images of her not in her biography.

    Fact is, there will always be queries where one engine is perceived to be better than the other and only time will tell if Live Search will be successful but just don't jump to conclusions based on two queries.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Google seems to occupy your dreams nowadays :)

  5. is a rubish search engine compaired to the many that are out there.

    It's still really slow, and still doesn't give good results.

    The whole idea behind 'live' seems to be copied off google.


  6. I still think google is lighter than live search. If I use firebug and search after 'blaat' in google, he does it in 226ms (10kb) and live search does it in 975ms (25kb)

    I think the numbers explain itself

  7. And yet they didn't spend a minute trying to update the search core. Search for firefox. Look at the ads (Firefox 2008 wtf?!?!), look at the first result (Silverlight???). Microsoft spends WAY too much time trying to improve the interface and giving stuff a new look without improving functionality. The problem with that is that users have to continually adjust to new interfaces without getting any benefit. I'm sticking with Google.