Wednesday, March 8

Microsoft Livens Up Competition with New Windows Live.com

Today, Microsoft released major upgrades to Windows Live.com. Apparently, Microsoft wasn't all bluster last week when they were talking about major upgrades to search. You can read it from their perspective on the Live.com blog on MSN spaces. This also co-incides with their push to get Hotmail users to jump on board the Windows Live Mail beta, which I mentioned last night.


It is breaking on Read Write/Web, Scoble, and in mainstream media as well. The new Windows Live Search features new capabilities for image search, news search, RSS feeds, mail, local search and shopping. Ya, ya, ya, we know all that, its coming up to standard with Yahoo / Google, finally. Those aren't as interesting to me as some of the new UI features and cool new "Web 2.0" tools.

In addition to the standard fare, MS has rolled out some innovative UI features, such as an Ajaxy "Smart Scroll" that allows users to have an infinite scroll experience. Maybe 10 results won't be the major number anymore? Another innovation is the "slider bar," which controls the amount of content displayed for a given search result. Toggle it down and all you see is the title and url. Toggle it all the way up and you get a search box that says "Search this site:"

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Microsoft also announced it purchased Onfolio. Onfolio let's people clip and save text and links from the web. It sounds like a product that should be a part of the Yahoo MyWeb platform and the Yahoo toolbar. Interesting.

According to the Onfolio press release, dated yesterday, March 7:
Today at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, Microsoft Corp. announced the acquisition of the assets of Onfolio Inc., a privately held, Cambridge, Mass.-based Internet research and information management provider. Onfolio's technology has been incorporated into the Windows Live™ Toolbar to enhance the way people discover, save and reuse their personal and professional Web research.
Apparently, things are running a bit behind schedule because the link in the press release is not Live yet. Sorry, the bad puns from some of my co-workers must be rubbing off. I was digging around Onfolio and Live.com and couldn't find the download link for the toolbar. Then I ran across this quote on Onfolio's download page saying that it will be available on the afternoon of March 8th. Looks like things slipped a little. Oops!

Update 3/15: The toolbar is now available for download. I've downloaded it, but haven't had a chance to try it out much, yet.

The other thing that caught my attention which no one seems to have made a big deal about yet is the featured reported by the Seattle Pi: "In addition, the company says Windows Live Search will offer the ability to quickly conduct a search within a limited set of a person’s favorite sites."

Update:
After reading the SE Watch article, this feature is search macros. According to Chris Sherman, "Macros are flexible, easy to create and share. As an example, you could create a Macro that searched for terms across a set of web sites that you specify, in effect, creating your own personalized vertical search tool." This looks like Microsoft's attack on Yahoo based Rolly-O, which I have discussed previously. Fascinating! In the hidden drop down (click the down arrow) after the "Feeds" link on the search results there is an option to "Find Macro", but clicking on this currently redirects you to the live.com homepage. Looks like we will have to wait a little longer for this feature.

Update 3/15: Macros are also now finally available as well under the Gadget Gallery that can be installed on your homepage. It allows people to create lists of sites like: (prefer:site:joelonsoftware.com OR prefer:site:jeremy.zawodny.com). However, the query is very verbose compared to the list of sites like Rolly-o. Users should haven't to read something that looks like SQL in order to use it. Still, its a good start. I look forward to seeing how they expand on it. Meanwhile, I hope they improve the gadgets gallery usability perhaps, search functionality (isn't that ironic?) and some categories?

Go take a look at let me know what you think of the new Live.com

Tuesday, March 7

Victim of Yahoo

My Fiance, Krystle, is a victim of a Yahoo, of a live site test. Below is a screenshot of Yahoo testing a new homepage format:


It feels much cleaner and less cluttered than there current homepage. Below is the current homepage:


The new homepage has less text and more icons. I like the single column navigation bar on the left. The new UI also has fewer broken image links than the current page. C'mon guys, what gives?

More and more sites are doing live site testing, diverting a portion of users to new features. If you've been watching Globalspec.com, you might have noticed similar happenings (TIP: Check back very soon!). Like Yahoo and Google, we've been doing a lot of UI testing this way. It's a great way to try out new features and see what happens to important metrics.

Good times.

There has been a lot going on, which I've been digesting. For example, Microsoft invited hotmail users to partipate in the Windows Live Mail beta. Now if only I would finally get an invite to test out the Yahoo Mail Beta. I've been waiting for at least four months guys -- its about time!

I look forward to writing more soon, and maybe getting back to my series on meta-search.