Windows Live Search review

Windows Live Search review

Summary: The technology behind the new Windows Live Search was unveiled This will see Microsoft gain search engine market share to me and around 50 other external people at Microsoft Search Champs back in January. It was probably the product that most impressed the attendees, particularly the whizzy new image search.

TOPICS: Browser

The technology behind the new Windows Live Search was unveiled This will see Microsoft gain search engine market share to me and around 50 other external people at Microsoft Search Champs back in January. It was probably the product that most impressed the attendees, particularly the whizzy new image search.

Windows Live Search has just been released and you can see it on the homepage.


The most impressive part of it is the user interface, which has several eye-opening features:

  • An 'infinite' scrollbar that gets rid of the necessity for paging through results using "Next" buttons. It can deliver up to 1000 results and generates the page dynamically. Yes, all results are on one page! At Search Champs, Microsoft told us their stats indicate only 30% of users click to pg 2 on search results - which led to this innovation. Note: currently there are reports of this causing some performance issues, but I'm sure those are just teething problems.
  • Choose your thumbnail size on images - you can use a 'slider' to adjust the size of image thumbnails, which is useful for focusing in on images. Or making them small so you can quickly scan them. 
  • Also hovering over any image displays more information - such as dimensions, file size, file name and location. The theory behind that is that it removes a lot of metadata from the frontend. There's also a "feedback on this image" link, but note that you probably won't receive a personal response if you send feedback!
  • Click-through on an image result creates a frame for navigation in the left - also click "show image" to view full-size image as a pop-up. All done with AJAX.


Feeds are prominent in the Windows Live Search design:

  • You can subscribe to results, with the "add to" button (assuming you use as a personalized homepage, which of course Microsoft is hoping you'll do...)
  • Subscribe to feeds, by clicking the "Feeds" tab. Again very useful for users.

Additional tabs give you options to extend your search:

  • News tab - similar to Google News, offers search results from selected media sources.
  • Local tab - does a search using the Virtual Earth mapping technology.

Search macros are a new feature designed to enable people to create custom searches across set parameters. Although only technical users are likely to create new macros, ordinary users can easily install other peoples macros. For this purpose, the Search Macro Gallery is a showcase of macros designed by Microsoft and external developers.


My verdict

Overall I think Live Search is a vast improvement over MSN Search, at least in terms of UI and functionality offered. The new scrolling technology is a pleasure to use, the AJAX image pop-ups are very fluid, and overall it is a much cleaner look. Also the ability to do custom searches with macros is a big step forward in functionality, compared to both MSN and Google. I guess the real test though will be whether Windows Live Search can produce better search results than Google!

I predict Windows Live Search will see Microsoft gain search engine market share over Google and Yahoo, because it's integrated into - the homepage for Windows Live. Over time, as Microsoft markets and perhaps even makes it the default Internet homepage in Vista (a distinct possibility!) I think we'll see their search market share increase.

Topic: Browser

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  • I agree, a pure pleasure to use. (nt)

    • I second that.

      <b><i><u>Pure Pleasure</u></i></b>
      April May
    • Wait! not so fast. DonnieBoy has yet to weigh in on why...

      it will fail miserably and force MS to poop their pants as it was their last chance to stave off the
      bankruptcy people....
      John Zern
  • Neat Idea but....

    While the one page search results is a neat idea I found myself personally bobbing and weaving between what my mouse scroll wheel wanted to do with the main web page itself versus what could or couldn't be done with the actual search result window.

    That was a little bit bothersome! Sure you can latch on to the little search window handle bar things butttttttttttt... the scroll is a habit I wish not to break. To boot (even though my home monitor is not a 21") the limited dimensions of the search window is somewhat of a pain as well.
  • Alright... Neat idea again...

    Somehow I must have gotten opened up off of the page not quite into the full ambience of the search mechanism.

    After futher review I"ll have to retract the original scroll wheel mouse confusion episode.

    Alright back to an AJAX Cool rating!
  • No cached pages with search highlights

  • Windows Live Search Review

    Odd, I just tried using Opera (browser). I get the Windows Live Beta screen with a search form. Typing some search text and hitting "Enter" returns the same blank search screen. No results.

    To ensure that it wasn't an Opera Browser problem, I tried IE (6.0.2800 XP SP1). Same result (nothing) with an Error icon at the bottom left of IE's screen. ???
    • Do keep in mind...

      that it's still in Beta stage. With MS, betas are still quite buggy.

      However, I'm no Microsoft fan, but I will give credit where it's due: The UI is pretty good, although too Microsoft-y for me, and surprisingly it does work within Linux and Firefox(save for the Toolbar, Messenger and Safety Center, which are Windows-only). But there is one tiny flaw in the "endless scrollbar" feature: There's no way, other than manually, to quickly scroll all the way to the end of the results, but you can use the Home key to scroll all the way to the beginning.

      It's an improvement, but I think I'll still use Google and Yahoo at least for a while.
      Tony Agudo
      • Also notice...

        A bigger flaw in the "endless scrollbar" is that as you scroll down it quietly adds more and more URLs to the browser history, making using th Back button to get back to the page you were in before entering your search a bit of an adventure.
        • I didn't get that problem...

          under Linux with Firefox. Perhaps it's an IE or Windows bug? I'm running a Linux-only machine, so unfortunately I can't find out for myself. Anybody dual-booters here who can find out?
          Tony Agudo
  • No Middle-clicking on links

    I must be able to middle-click a link in the search results (makes a new tab of the link in Firefox) or I won't use it. You can right-click and choose "New Tab", but that isn't good enough.

    The endless scrolling page is a neat idea, but the lack of a proper scrollbar makes me unconfortable. I can't stand those scrolly widgets that you have to wait and wait for the screen to scroll to where you want to go.

    It is nice not having multiple pages to flip through... but sometimes having those multiple pages are kind of reassuring in some way.

    It's not all bad, but I haven't seen anything there that would pull me away from using Google.
  • Will it work on other browsers or just IE

    If it doesn't, then its nothing more then M$ only catering to its own browser and Google will have nothing to worry about.
    • Afraid so...

      I just tried it out on Firefox within Linux, and it actually does work. But the Toolbar, Messenger, and Security Center are all Windows/IE only, so Google may not have too much to worry about, since right now it does only cater to Windows users.
      Tony Agudo
  • time to load is an issue

    as i'm accessing windows live search on a dialup connection in africa, it takes a long time to load, the ajax scrollbar was a real pain, and my first search went nowhere since i clicked the search button before the full page had loaded.

    it's certainly a nice interface, but i think will exclude a lot of customers if the default interface is unusable on their internet connections.
  • slow slow slow slow!

    ...over 30 seconds to load at my place of work (high speed line). 80 Seconds with a 56K modem...guess MS does not care about the 20% of people still on dial up.