Wow. Earlier this month, I heard Microsoft execs highlight Live Search Books as a key advance they were doing in search. Today, news that the site along with Live Search Academic are being closed next week, since they lack the “high consumer intent” that Microsoft is now focusing on. So much for trying to seem like the much-needed “good” alternative to Google. From Microsoft’s blog post:
Today we informed our partners that we are ending the Live Search Books and Live Search Academic projects and that both sites will be taken down next week. Books and scholarly publications will continue to be integrated into our Search results, but not through separate indexes.
This also means that we are winding down our digitization initiatives, including our library scanning and our in-copyright book programs. We recognize that this decision comes as disappointing news to our partners, the publishing and academic communities, and Live Search users.
Amazing. And disappointing. Microsoft got mileage out of the idea it was working with the Open Content Alliance as the “good” book search partner not encumbered by controversy that the Google Book Search service has encountered. For background on that, see:
- Battle For Books: Evil Google Versus The Altruistic Open Content Alliance, Dec. 2006
- Dissecting Microsoft Slams At Google As Copyright Infringer, March 2007
- Google: As Open As It Wants To Be (i.e., When It’s Convenient), Nov. 2007
While I had wanted to see the two rival book scanning projects cooperate more with each other, it was still nice to have both major companies involved. But apparently Microsoft figures going after the consumer searchers (as with the Live Search Cashback program) means there’s no time for important but less-revenue generating projects like these. Writes Microsoft:
Given the evolution of the Web and our strategy, we believe the next generation of search is about the development of an underlying, sustainable business model for the search engine, consumer, and content partner. For example, this past Wednesday we announced our strategy to focus on verticals with high commercial intent, such as travel, and offer users cash back on their purchases from our advertisers.
Gosh, Google somehow seems to be able to run a sustainable business model and devote some energy and resources into indexing books and scholarly information, even if those generate little to no revenue. They do it in part because they think it’s good business to provide all types of searches, not just those that will earn them money.
In the middle of a search war, I can understand that a “distraction” like book and academic search might seem like something to Microsoft that has to go. However, Microsoft’s not hurting for cash to keep it up, if it wanted. Dropping it makes Google seem less like the evil giant working for its own benefit that Microsoft would hope people view it as.
Oh well. For the record, Live Search Books launched in December 2006 (versus Google Book Search, launched in December 2003). Live Search Academic launched in April 2006 (versus Google Scholar, launched back in November 2004). Both Google programs continue.