Searching for Microsoft’s Instant Answers

    November 24, 2008
    Chris Crum

Microsoft’s Live Search has been the object of some criticism lately since rumors have been swirling about a possible rebranding. That will likely continue in part due to the "instant answers" the Live Search team is touting today.

A post at the Live Search blog discusses some useful features added to Live Search in time for the holidays that are very universal-searchy. The Instant Answers features are aimed to improve the searching experience for shopping and travel. The only problem is, when I try to use the features, I’m not so lucky as to be blessed with them. Well, 2 out of 3 anyway. One of them works.

The first feature they discuss is for shopping. Theoretically, you search for a product and it brings up "instant answers" with ratings and prices. A useful enough feature for comparison shoppers. They provide the screenshot below.

Image of Canon Powershot instant answer on Live Search

However, when I test this myself, even using the exact same search for "Canon PowerShot," I am not presented with these instant answers, but a run-of-the-mill search results page.

Canon PowerShot search

Feature number two
is also in the shopping category, and shows an image and a summary of reviews and specs when you search for the exact product model name. They provide the example of the "Canon PowerShot SD1000 Digital ELPH," a search that I duplicated in my own testing.

Image of Canon Powershot instant answer on Live Search

This one actually worked just as described as you can see the box within the search results page:

Canon PowerShot SD1000
I tried the third one, which is supposed to tell you if airfare is going up or down for "flights from (point a) to (point b), just as in the provided example of "Flights from Boston to Atlanta". I duplicated that search and got the same result as Microsoft’s example.

Image of Farecast prediction instant answer on Live Search

However, when I tried a different one from my hometown of Lexington to New York City, I got nothing. When I tried Lexington to Atlanta I got nothing. I tried Lexington to Chicgago. Nothing.

Flights From Lexington to Atlanta

We have an airport. Apparently it’s not recognized by Microsoft. Perhaps the features haven’t been entirely rolled out yet. Regardless, I don’t know that they are going to be drawing much traffic away from Google or Yahoo.