• http://thenoisychannel.com/ Daniel Tunkelang

    I’ve wondered over the years why Microsoft struggles so much with search, especially given the high-quality work coming out of the research group. But I think you’ve nailed it: their hearts, as a company, are simply not in it.

    I have major creative differences with Google as to where search should go–in fact, I’m giving a talk at Google next week on the subject. But their passion for search, and the success that their passion has brought them, is indisputable.

    As for all the would-be Google killers, I can hope they’ll do better than tilt at windmills by pursuing incremental improvement that at best will be ignored, at worst ridiculed. My humble advice: go after the problems where there is a huge amount of room for improvement.


  • gabriele

    Great article. It put to shame the “dynamic duo” that has a big media group behind but greatly lacks the insight and knowledge to write anything like this.
    In my opinion MS is lying when they say they have the technology and they only wanted the audience of Yahoo for the ads marketplace.
    If one lesson was to be learned from goggle is that at some level of scale you can’t have the technology if you don’t have the audience. So for MS reaching a critical mass is something that has lots to do with its core business and it’s an important bid for its own existence in the future.

  • davemc500hats

    awesome piece.

    yeah, i think the “Live” brand is still-born too, but strangely no one over there gets that. either MSN or Microsoft would be fine. and they should have just bought Ask 3-4 years ago (even via IAC), and they could have failed at a much lower cost / less time.

    but these days i see no way in hell they are catching up, even if they do some half-assed Yahoo search deal. maybe they should just let Facebook try to figure it out, and hope they have enough cash left to buy the rest of FB someday.


  • MrBill

    Awesome article Danny. As usual, very insightful and balanced.

    Of course I can attest to your tenure and persistence regarding MSN, er, Live, Search.

    I especially liked this: “[…] Microsoft as a company isn’t succeeding at search because it views search as a task it has to do, rather than one it really wants to do.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s all about the dollars, the (increasing) threat to the MS platform from Google and the Web in general, and the humiliation of getting its clock cleaned by you-know-who. But where is the true passion for search? As you say, it seems like it’s a means to many ends, with the ends being increasingly vague as Google sets its sights ever more broadly.

    And, as it was when I was there, the passion for search isn’t lacking within the search team itself. They care about winning, and they care a lot.

    But one must ask, as you have, how likely is it that a company that doesn’t see itself as a search company, first and foremost, can beat one who does?

  • ericlussier

    Thanks for sharing your insight, Danny. Those ads were great!

    It would be great for MS to stop talking about money at the very top, but it’s an issue that most companies suffer from. It’s the difference between the leadership message coming from a money man vs a product person, a la Jobs, Bezos or the Google crew (- Schmidt).

    Live was always too generic a brand name for my taste but I guess that was the point. I certainly agree that they could have saved themselves a decade by leveraging the Microsoft brand.

    BTW, default search on microsoft.com is still internal and comes up with some terrible results if you mistake it for a web-wide search.

    Type in “britney spears” and hit enter.

  • brooksjordan

    Great post, Danny. I learned a lot.

    MSFT should hire you for that roadshow . . . and more.

  • http://aplawrence.com pcunix

    Microsoft has NEVER understood the Internet. They outright ignored it for years and refused to adopt TCP/IP because they wanted to control how Windows machines were networked.

    That whole “control” attitude is their biggest problem and of course it is why they can only embrace the Internet like most of us would embrace a porcupine. The Internet represents tremendous danger: it can destroy them.

    And some of us wouldn’t shed a single tear if it did.

  • yodaluke

    Sometimes the biggest opportunities come from knowing exactly what the challenges are. I think Danny spelled out both for Microsoft. Awesome.

  • owen_P

    My impression with Microsoft and Live search is that they seem to want to run before they can walk. Working in SEO for several years I know how easy it is to game Live search, and it will be as long as they continue to make basic algorithymic mistakes.

    Using clever marketing tactics does not work if your core product isn’t any good. I’m not saying that Live Search is aweful, because it’s not. However it’s not as good as the alternative, until there is some kind of focus on raising the quality of the SERPs then they are not going to compete.

    If I was in charge of Live search I would do three things:
    1. Drop Paid Inclusion, injecting reslts into the SERPs only serves to create distrust in the algorithym.
    2. Inject cash into the spam team, it’s obviously needed.
    3. Refocuss Live Search, so it is no lonjger seen by Microsft as a potential cash cow but instead a way of furthering the internet for everyone. If they can make something that geniunly helps people get more form the internet the $$$ will follow.

  • gard_jenssen

    Lots of crisp insights in this article, Danny, thx for sharing. Still, I can’t help thinking that you miss out on maybe the most important problem all Google competitors face: Their search algorithms and the relevancy of their results simply (still?) can’t compete with Google’s.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Owen, Microsoft doesn’t have a paid inclusion program. They ended that back in 2004 as part of the release of their own search engine. Only Yahoo still runs paid inclusion, among the major search engines.

    Gard, yes — core relevancy is an issue, and I did have another part that got into the many signals that Google’s able to tap into if it wants in terms of site popularity that gives it an advantage. Just ran out of time and felt I had already written so much. For more on that, see:

    Google: Master Of Closing The Loop?