Gates Sees MSN Passing Google In Relevance

    November 25, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Delivering relevant search results was the cornerstone upon which Google built its search advertising fortunes, but Bill Gates sees a new model for search relevance arriving with the MSN brand emblazoned on it.

"One Sun Mirror, as he welded the tribes and countries and little island nations together, had wanted a room built which said to chieftains and ambassadors: this is the biggest space you've ever been in, it is more splendid than anything you could ever imagine, and we've got a lot more rooms like this....Let it say to him, 'This is civilization, and you can join it or die. Now drop to your knees or be shortened some other way.' "
— from Terry Pratchett’s Interesting Times.

The post-Ray Ozzie and Bill Gates memos have been followed by the media and PR blitz that has been a hallmark of the Microsoft empire for years. Before the Xbox 360 mania came to a full boil, Gates told InformationWeek about Microsoft Research and the role they’re playing in the great Google chase. (Hat tip to Gary Price for unearthing this):

([Eric] Horvitz and [David] Heckerman have) taken some of their techniques against clickstreams to figure out how you should design the Web, or how searches work. Search is an amazing example where we relied somewhat on an outside company, Inktomi, which Yahoo bought, then decided to build our own search effort essentially from scratch. Now, in a very short period of time, we will actually have more than matched the kind of relevance that Google can deliver. The role of Microsoft Research in that has been phenomenal.

Microsoft has become aggressive in addressing the challenge of Google. At PubCon recently, a product manager for MSN Search made claims similar to Gates. Some in the room snickered at his chippiness and focus on Google.

Microsoft laughs last a lot, though, and the world’s biggest tech company could be wiping some of those smiles away with a crowbar. To do that, they’ll have to do more than pass Google in relevance. A huge number of computer users have been embracing Google’s minimalist homepage and fast relevant results for several years. Microsoft has to break that habit if they want to break Google’s hold on search.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.