The End of Live Search? Codename Rome – A new brand for a new generation of search

By Kip Kniskern | Posted February 4, 2008 16 comments

yahoo The Microsoft-Yahoo! deal, when and if it is finalized, will bring on many changes to branding across offerings from both companies.  Some have speculated on the end of Windows Live, replacing it with the Yahoo! brand, but I don’t think so.  Microsoft’s strategy to use Windows Live as a value add on top of Windows is a good one.  For one thing it keeps the EU and the US Justice Department at bay, for another it allows the Windows team to focus on the core operating system and leave add-ons like Mail and Photo Gallery to Windows Live, and it allows Windows to morph into a cleaner, leaner operating system more suited to media mobile devices and the appliances of the future. 

msnsearch Of course there are a thousand possibilities for what might happen in the months to come (and Microsoft expects the Yahoo! deal to happen in Q3 2008).  Here’s my take: Yahoo! becomes the online brand, replacing MSN.com for content services, and even possibly combining mail and messenger, utilizing the strength of the Yahoo! name and cleaning up some of the residual Windows Live mess.  That would allow Windows Live to continue to deliver value adds for Windows (Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Writer, etc).  Office Live of course will remain, and what happens with branding for cloud storage and file synch services such as SkyDrive, Foldershare, and the upcoming Horizon we’ll have to wait and see.  Or not, but expect Windows Live to continue in some form, and Microsoft to make full use of the strength of the Yahoo! brand.

google What most pundits who have chimed in on the acquisition news haven’t grasped is that Microsoft plans are more far ranging than just some deranged mania bent on catching Google.  Let’s stop for a minute and look at the current state of affairs.  For Google, search drives almost all of its revenue.  Google counts on consumers looking for products online to search for them using Google, and to then buy them by clicking on ads.  There’s an inherent problem with this model, that there is no compelling reason to utilize Google if you aren’t searching for something.  Now obviously lots of folks are looking for products, based on Google’s revenues.  However, as proficient and dominant as Google is, it’s easier to build a world class search product than it is to build a world class content network.  The music and television industries are rapidly giving way to content provided over the internet, content that will drive web traffic in increasing numbers, with Google having little to offer other than a clean white search box and 10 blue lines.

windowslive What Microsoft is betting on, and what the Yahoo! acquisition puts it in position to deliver, is in the provision of next generation content to the web.   Content with a rich advertising model far surpassing what Ray Ozzie condescendingly referred to as the “10 blue lines” of Google’s text ads, and integrating search of a quality to equal Google’s built into that content in a seamless and convenient way.  This isn’t about building a Google competitor that copies the model and hopes to catch up, its about building a new model that will better serve both users and advertisers.  And it isn’t about beating Google, it’s about leapfrogging Google into the next generation of online advertising.

livesearch But while all of this is occurring, Microsoft needs to do something about search in its present form, and indeed there are plans, soon to be unveiled, that will do just that.  Microsoft has had a plan to re-brand Live Search for some time now, we first heard about it early last fall.  There was some talk of making the move with Searchification, the update to Live Search that took place last September, but instead it won’t come until the next main bi-annual search update, which we’re hearing will be April (regular disclaimer applies). Security is tight around the new brand name, which has already been chosen, and internally it is being referred to as Rome.com, a placeholder code name. Ina Fried picked up on Steve Ballmer using it in Microsoft’s latest SEC filing today, though the only information he and Kevin Johnson gave was that it would be ready for a “release in the Spring”.

qmark Re-branding Live Search on its own, without the Yahoo! acquisition, would be a move ripe for derision by Microsoft’s detractors, seen as another flailing attempt to make a move on Google.  But a new brand combining Live Search with Yahoo!,  when it comes on board, makes much more sense.  The new brand, with new market share and the combined engineering talents of Microsoft and Yahoo!, would lead the way in restructuring Microsoft’s live services to accomodate the inclusion of Yahoo!.  And for those who dwell in the past at Microsoft’s laughable naming conventions, consider Silverlight and Popfly and a new generation of Microsoft branding, and that Live Search has already been disassociated with the Windows Live brand, possibly in preparation for exactly this move.  With the need to consolidate search products as the top priority once the Yahoo! acquisition is in place, a move now to establish a new brand, neither Live Search or Yahoo! but a new brand for a new generation of search, comes at the right time.

Oh and if you wondering about the choice of Rome as a codename, the well known phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day” gives some pretty good background.

Posted February 4th, 2008 at 5:25 pm
Category: Opinion
Tags: Bing, Live Search
  • BV2312

    Personally i think WL try to complecate things too much and not keep things simple.

    WL do not update their services on a regular basis eg SkyDrive, Calendar, Fav, Live.com, QnA etc

    Live search is still not the best and needs to improve the way they crawl through the website and how it uses meta tags

    Most of the time Google keeps thing simple and sweet and everyone loves it

    Should Microsoft buy Yahoo they will be tested on the integration of Yahoo + MSN which will be a major task!!! Good Luck i say

  • Salem

    Interesting read Kip, I must say, i agree with your thoughts that Microsoft won’t scrap Windows Live if the Yahoo! aquisition goes forward.

    It’ll be really interesting to see what comes of the Microsoft & Yahoo! deal (if it goes through), and what Microsoft does with the services it aquired from Yahoo! and it’s own, duplicate services.

  • Khristopher

    Windows Live should definitely be scrapped, and all services changed to Yahoo.
    Windows Live is just not working well for MS at all if you ask me.

    Also if MS couldn’t get Windows Live to work now, who says things will be any different having Yahoo as well?

  • kenbw2

    “…there is no compelling reason to utilize Google if you aren’t searching for something”

    Erm, and what do you base that on?

    I prefer GMail over Hotmail, GCalendar to its WL counterpart, all my IM chats are logged in GMail (using Jabber transports to talk to people on WLMessenger), all my web history is stored with Google, their bookmarks integrates amazingly with Firefox (unlike WLFavourites that’s effectively abandonware), oh, and I use their search engine…
    This is only a small portion of what I use.

    So tell me again why I have no use for Google?

  • vipwoody

    Whats up with windows naming their codes with different European cities? windows codenamed vienna, and now search codenamed rome.

  • quikboy

    So the MSN brand is going away? That’s kind of sad, because I find it very nostalgic of the old days. I personally would have expected for the Y! brand to die away.

    And Windows Live being renamed? Because it would be wonderful to know that the many references to Windows Live-this-and-that are now useless. They just needed a more snappier name. “Windows Live” doesn’t really roll off the tongue as well, and is much longer to say. Though I don’t want to see something too zany.

  • CalumJR

    I agree with quikboy that I would have expected the Yahoo! brand to die away and I really hope it does.

    I LOVE the name “Windows Live” because it relates to the Windows OS very well and after all, the software and services are basically add-ons of the Windows OS! I love the idea behind Windows Live, the design, the name and all of the software and services. Therefore, I will be gutted if the Windows Live brand goes away, especially after I’ve just bagged the email address I wanted @live.co.uk. If Windows Live Hotmail goes and is replaced by Yahoo! Mail then how useless is my @live.co.uk address?? VERY! I cannot get the address I want @yahoo.co.uk!!!

    Basically, I’m saying that all of the Windows Live services and software should stay exactly the same, they should just think of a clever way to get the Yahoo! users lol – even though that is probably impossible…

    Live Search, however, is a completely different thing to Windows Live and so I am glad that is being re-branded and I look forward to hearing more about the new brand, especially when/if it gets combined with Yahoo! Search.

  • VasiS

    @kenbw2

    I think the quote is regarding the services that mek googl money. Search based text ad’s make about 80% of google revenues now.

    Even though i agree that gmail is better than yahoo, hotmail is comparable to gmail and Hotmail + Yahoo have more than 75% of email and IM users compared to 5% of gmail and gtalk.

    I also agre that many of the live services are not popular (Q&A etc) but the same yahoo services are very popular (Q&A, Flickr etc) and also vice-versa (yahoo360 is less popular than live spaces). So combining the services from yahoo will give MS a strong profile of online services that are popular.

  • VasiS

    @calum-r

    I think e-mail is relatively simple, making the live-id and yahoo-id to inter-operate on both sites and gradually integrating to a common UI ( and site). even now yahoo-id works in Windows Messenger, so this shouldnt be a problem.

    And regarding other overlapping services, the popular version (yahoo or MS) stays and the other is scrapped (may be after adding some features from the scrapped services)

  • jtoc72

    @kenbw2 – With respect, I agree with Kip.

    I use – and pay for – a Yahoo! Mail account.

    I have a paid Flickr account.

    Before they abandoned it, I did all of my Web-based socializing on Yahoo!360, and Yahoo! Groups before that.

    I use Yahoo! IM to chat with my Yahoo! and MSN/Live.com contacts.

    I make it a point *not* to use Google search unless I absolutely have to. Having admitted that, let me say honestly that the number of times I have to use it to find something are far less these days using Yahoo! and Live Search than they were just a year or two back.

    My semi-professional blog *is* hosted by Blogger, though:

    http://healthcareinformationsystemsblog.blogspot.com/

    - and I have to say that Google’s support for this particular section of their portfolio is shameful!

    I don’t work for Microsoft or Yahoo! (dare to dream), and I’m hardly cloying when it comes to either company. In fact, as much as admit to being a Yahoo! cheerleader/wannabe, there’s no outfit I criticize more.

    But don’t take my word for it:

    http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-5b4jPyo7b6krMyGYzmM-?cq=1&tag=yahoo%21

    Would I still like to work for Yahoo!? You betcha. Do I still think Terry Semel was a douche bag? You betcha.

    Would I still like to work for Microsoft? Uh-hu. Do I say a little prayer every night that Ray Ozzie leaves his boot print firmly in the ass and on the knuckles of Steve Ballmer as he climbs the Redmond ladder? You’d better believe it!

    The fact is, apart from search, Google’s track record with home-grown services is abysmal, and it’s ability to monetize it’s acquisitions is so-so at best. Add to that the company’s increasingly pot-calling-the-kettle-black approach towards dealing with its rivals and blind-eye that the corporate media has turned towards its grossly overvalued stock which has been in free-fall the past fiscal quarter and you can see why folks like Kim and myself are willing to go on the record that “there is no compelling reason to utilize Google if you aren’t searching for something.”

  • CalumJR

    To VasiS:

    I understand what you mean, I just mean if I have a @live.co.uk account and my Webmail service is called Yahoo! Mail and not Windows Live Mail (or something with the Live name), then it won’t be consistent, if you get what I mean?

    So my email address will not relate to the service I am using and so that will annoy me lol.

    I know it is a minor thing to some people, but I would rather my email address be related to the product I am using. Hence, if my Webmail service is now going to be Yahoo! Mail then my email address should be @yahoo.co.uk.

    What also meant to get across is that I hate the Yahoo! name lol, wheras, I love the Windows Live name and brand.

  • WyzyrdMyrrlyn

    So Microsoft and Yahoo! are (almost) certain to merge, and Google and Apple have merged in all but name, so the future of the Web is: GooPle vs. MicroHoo!

    Scenario 1:
    One of the mega-companies innovates like mad and clearly trounces the other and rakes in the cash, or

    Scenario 2:
    Both companies stagnate and innovation rate slows to glacial. A small startup with a great web presence appears, builds on everything (OS, Web), and innovates like mad and races swiftly past the stagnant (now declining) deadlocked giants, bringing a new era of technology to the web. The giants die, leaving only their technological remains.

    Or a miracle happens and another scenario appears. But this is all I see.

  • foaf

    @Calum

    Totally agree with all your comments. I got ‘into’ windows live because of the live.com email addresses, and an email address should be ‘for life’ to enable no one to lose touch. I would switch to Gmail if Yahoo became the online brand as I share no affinity with Y!

  • olliewally255

    I totally agree with Kip. I have to say, the msn brand is really tired now and they’ll probably scrap it anyway. I’m glad about the Live Search rebrand. I abandoned it at the last refresh, and am now using Yahoo!, just because Live Search is crap now. What cheek from Google too, to start moaning about competition on the web!

  • Stephen

    I think the info at the Economist is also worth noting regarding ‘Antitrust’ and here is snippet.

    http://www.economist.com/daily/columns/businessview/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10636325

    Indeed, even if Microsoft believed that it would be prevented from buying Yahoo! on antitrust grounds, it might make sense to push for the deal, if only to force the antitrust authorities to take a serious look at issues of market power in the online search and advertising market, which would inevitably lead them to Google.

    By responding on February 4th to Microsoft’s bid by offering whatever support Yahoo! might require, Google may have walked into Microsoft’s sucker punch. For whatever adverse effects on competition might result from Microsoft buying Yahoo!, the impact of a closer relationship between Google and Yahoo! would surely be worse.

  • SteveBallmer

    If I ever had any doubts at all about this merger/purchase thing with Yahoo, they were all dispelled today by none other than the GuTards over at Google themselves! They issued statements like:

    “Microsoft’s acquisition of Yahoo could undermine the open competition on the Internet! ….

    “Microsoft which has been targeted by antitrust regulators in the U.S. and Europe, frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies — and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets!”

    “Microsoft could now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC!”

    I answered quickly: “The combination of Microsoft and Yahoo will create a more competitive marketplace by establishing a compelling number two competitor for Internet search and online advertising. (The #2 I was refering to is Google!)
    The alternative scenarios only lead to less competition on the Internet.”

    THE TRUTH!
    The Gutards are a lot smarter than I thought, they finally have realised who they have pissed off here! They haven’t seen anything yet! I have already beefed up the legal team budget by 80%! We are going to gut the Gutards, go to court, then in a few years pay a negotiated fine! That’s how the law works!

    In any case in a few years we will no longer have to worry about Gaggle!
    lol