At the company meeting last week, the new Live Search 2.0 was demoed and has since received rave reviews from Microsoft employees (yes even mini). Sean Earp’s impresions were picked up by Scoble, with relevance still seeming to be the favourite buzzword of the Live Search team. Sean also mentions improvements around index size and instant answers but refrains from mentioning any of the juicy new bits. Of course Mary-Jo Foley has her ear to the ground, with some of the new directions the team is rumoured to be going in including:
New personalization capabilities integrated into Live Search
An integrated location/calendar/presence service that may also tie in with Live Search 2.0
A new capability integrating social networks, annotation (ratings and reviews) and search
Future integration between Outlook and Live Search
While these sound pretty useful, its worth remembering that some of them may just be at the ideas stage and not available immediately at launch - the last point is rumoured to be an Office 14 feature, Calendar integration requires a Windows Live Calendar etc.
So with the Live Search team not talking about new features and long term aims until Searchification on Sept 26th, and Microsoft employees left right and center adding to the hype daily, we thought we’d provide a quick look at how the beta UI has changed from the existing Live Search (not looking at new features).
Homepage (comparison to existing)
Of note on the homepage is the new Video search tab, which up until now has only been a beta feature on Live Search and the inclusion of a link to the new webmasters portal. We also found one employee hinting at a cool video search preview feature, so it sounds like this is an area they have made some progress in. At the moment there is no direct link to the personalised live.com page either, but that may change between now and the launch. Not quite sure where the grey came from either…
Results (comparison to existing)
With Search adopting the now standard Windows Live Wave 2 header, the top of the results page is now slightly cleaner than before, though its worth remembering that contextual ads will eventually be showing up in this area. Results also now feature the drill down links under the top result, giving direct access to other pages within the site. Yes Google has had this for a while, but hey its getting there.
The number of matching search results being reported has increased massively, from 99 million to 19.6 billion. Whether they are all valid results is impossible to tell, but it suggests just how much work has been done on increasing the index size. No surprise then that the Live Search beta is apparently being run from the new BlueRidge datacenter (some of the new Windows Live Hotmail accounts and Spaces photos are being hosted from here too).
The new Search 2.0 beta is already available at beta.live.com for those who work at Microsoft, unfortunately everybody else will have to wait and see what happens on September 26th.