Industry Update

By mike_danhofmike_danhof (1257977667|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Microsoft joins forces with Wolfram Alpha and Bing grows.

Today, Microsoft announced that its long-rumored deal with Wolfram Alpha will actually be happening. The details are a bit scarce, but Microsoft says that two primary areas of Wolfram's capabilities, Nutritional Facts and Mathematics, will be incorporated into Bing searches over the next few days. As part of the Nutritional Facts, Bing will also use Wolframs' BMI (that's Body Mass Index) calculator in searches related to nutrition. Below is a screenshot of what this may look like:

bing-wolfram-nutrition.jpg

And here is what the math results would look like:

bing-wolfram-math.png

Pretty interesting, I would think. This goes to show how Microsoft is finally leveraging its massive size and resources to make its mark in the search industry. It is also interesting, though, that Microsoft is bypassing the in-house development of many of Bing's newest features. This is quite a stark contrast to their colorful past, as they have always prided themselves on having the best products that were developed by Microsoft. This collaboration with Wolfram may be a sign of the times in that smaller companies that focus on one or a couple specific things may actually be better than behemoths like Microsoft that try to tackle so many different categories at the same time. This partnership also goes along with one of Bing's primary goals, which is best stated by them from their website:

One of the things we’ve tried to do with Bing is to bring customers the information they are looking for, presented in a useful way. If we can adequately infer a user’s intent, we can bring them a much more compelling experience than an endless list of links. We can bring them real knowledge and get them closer to the answer they were looking for or the decision they were trying to make.

A great goal, and I think the collaboration with Wolfram is a step in that direction. However, it will be intersting to see how far the collaboration goes, and, in my opinion, how long Microsoft will wait until they try to buy Wolfram Alpha, or a least the rights to their algorithms and capabilities.

Bing's official announcement

In other news, but related…

This news story about the Big Three (or Four) Search engines briefly talks about how Bing has made quite an impact on the search industry since its inception, and even more so recently. The report, put together by Experian Hitwise, shows Bing has increased its traffic 7% over the past month, while Google and Yahoo! have seen their search shares drop by 1% each. Interestingly, Ask.com has seen their share increase 2% over the past month. But, as the chart below shows, Google is still incredibly far ahead of Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com in total share of searches.

Picture-1.png

Interestingly, though, the report also states this finding:

Longer search queries, averaging searches of five to more than eight words in length, increased 3 percent between October and September 2009. Searches of eight or more words increased 4 percent. The same time period showed that shorter search queries – those averaging one to four words long – decreased 1 percent from month to month.

This is seems to be very closely related to what we are learning in class - longer searches tend to give better results. So are people actually learning to search better and more effectively? Or is this just an anomaly, and people are just searching for different things? We can hope that is the former, and that people have learned not to just search for [Obama Medicare Healthcare] on Google, and will instead focus their search to something like [Obama AND Healthcare AND legislation AND medicare]. We can always hope, right?

To read more in depth about the Experian report, here is the article.

Happy searching.

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