Has Microsoft Found the Answer to Google? Search Me

I saw it on Twitter so it must be true: Microsoft is relaunching/rebranding its Live Search service.

Based on the strength of a single Tweet ["Played today with Live search upcoming (to be rebranded) launch pre-beta. I like the new features and UX so far"] from Powerset CEO Barney Pell, and a kinda/sorta/almost tweet-confirmation from a Microsoft "MVP" named Karenyo, the LiveSide blog has concluded that big changes are afoot at Live Search.

Adding to the tea leaves and entrails, Search Engine Land also noticed a few tweaks to Live Search's fonts and a handful of new features. Apparently, Ballmer is set to spill the beans today at Microsoft's MVP '09 Summit.

Meanwhile, Boomtown's Kara Swisher has screen shots of the new service, which is code-named "Kumo" (not to be confused with Cujo, the rabid St. Bernard). According to La Swish, "Kumo" means either "cloud" or "spider" in Japanese, a distinction you'd think would be kind of important in ordinary conversation. (As in, "better pack an umbrella, those look like rain spiders," or "don't look now, but there's a very large cloud crawling on your neck.")

Either way, that's better than renaming it Dead Search or even Persistent Vegetative State Search, though those names would be more accurate. Because a new name and new fonts ain't gonna do diddly to Google's dominance. (Try saying that three times fast.)

As PC World's JR Raphael drolly points out, just about everything Microsoft has done to revive Live's moribund market share -- from bribing users via the Cashback program to integration within Facebook -- has had the effect of hopping up and down on the patient's oxygen hose while puffing on a stogie. When the smoke clears, it's still a Microsoft product. And that's the real problem.

The only way Live Search/Kumo has a chance -- and at this point, it's a wafer-thin chance -- is to out-Google Google. Make a search engine so stunningly accurate and blindingly fast that people will prefer it over the G-monster. Or do something Google can't do, like finding the most recent information available on a topic. That's the one thing that drives me nuts about Google: the inability to easily search by when the information was produced, not the date the page on which it appears was last refreshed.

Do that for me, Spider-Cloud, and I'll consider switching. Until then, it's still the same old Microsoft search in a new wrapper. Outside of MSFT Fanboyz, why should anyone care?

Can any search engine catch Google? List your favorite Google-killing search sites and e-mail them to me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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