Tuesday, April 24

Images on Windows Live Products, An Improvement?

Recently Google renamed Froogle and gave it an upgrade, now it is Microsoft's turn with upgrades to Live Product Search.

Microsoft has a post up on their blog, Live Product Search More Images, More Relevant. According to their latest information 88.6% of the products now have images (a 9% improvement over the old system). Why aren't there 100% images in the top results?
The reason is largely because many sites, including very reputable merchants like Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, and AceHardwareSuperStore.com, block image crawling bots or seriously throttle them. We will have to work with these sites to address these issues, but the latest improvements in the number of Product Search top results with images are already quite significant.
Webmasters are weird about crawlers. Some complain even when the search engine will drive traffic to their site... and then there are the really insane webmasters who complain when you make 100 hits to their site. Some appear to have nothing to do but pour over their weblogs. Still, this it is surprising that MSN is having these problems with major retailers.

I don't buy MSN's 88.6%, at least not from a user perspective. I tried some queries and I'm seeing much worse results. See XBox 360 (10 out of 18 have images), ipod (12 out of 18), and a hard one kershaw shun (a brand of knife) (0 out of 18). This leads to my overall rating of approximately 41%. Compare this with Google. XBox 360 (7 out of 10), Ipod (10 out of 10, Kershaw Shun (10 out of 10). Google gets 90%. My unscientific 41% is a long ways off from MS's claim of 89%. Now I can't see what is in their entire database, but from my user experience something is fishy here.

In other product search related news Microsoft news... MS is working on Cloud DB (coverage via Geeking with Greg), a similar product to Google's BigTable. The key problem here is: how do you handle sparsely populated columns efficiently? From what appears to be some kind of leaked discussion on Cloud Db:
MSN Shopping. The total set of attributes that products can have (e.g. “Pixel Resolution”) is very large, but any given product only has a few (a vacuum cleaner doesn’t have ‘Pixel Resolution’).
A good review of BigTable and eventually BigTable and S3 is something for another night...

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