Payola Pony or Nerd Stallion: Who Will Win the Search Derby?

May 21, 2008

Two news items make clear how far apart Google and Microsoft are in search. Google’s “official Google Blog” offered a lengthy for Google “Introduction to Google Search Quality”. Amazon defector and super-wizard Udi Manber (Google’s VP of Search Quality) explains how engineers are working to keep Google’s results relevant. It’s notable for detail and the obsessive fiddling that the company does to make sure that its Web search users get relevant information. With a market share approaching 70 percent worldwide, Google’s engineers like Toyota’s want to get the details rights.
The other news item appears in Ina Fried’s juicy story on Cnet. Ms. Fried gets right to the point:
The software maker plans on Wednesday to launch a cash back program to those who buy things after using its search.
By the time you read this, Microsoft’s decision to buy traffic for will be commented, analyzed, and blogged by pundits smarter than I.
However, I have a different perspective at this moment (6 20 am Eastern), I am trying to put my thoughts together for my endnote talk to wrap up the bustling Enterprise Search Summit in New York City in a few hoiurs.
One of the themes at the show is that many of the attendees have Microsoft SharePoint, a content management and search system, rumored to have more than 65,000 major organizations as licensees and upwards of 60 million users worldwide, are looking for ways to squeeze more out of their SharePoint search systems.
Vendors like Coveo and ISYS Search Software told me that there is “strong, strong interest” in their search systems. One vendor told me, “SharePoint definitely is driving customers to our booth.” BA-Insight’s representative told me, “There’s great interest in finding ways to make SharePoint better.” The native SharePoint search seems to be forcing many SharePoint customers to turn to third parties to get search that works.
Microsoft was exhibiting at the show. It’s booth was showing off enhanced maps. Across the exhibit area was the newly acquired Fast Search & Transfer. The Microsoft staff did not point me to the Fast Search solution. Fast Search’s team did not point me to SharePoint. The Microsoft exhibit had no search banners. More surprisingly, there was no Fast Search information in the Microsoft exhibit area. Fast Search operated as if Fast Search were a separate commpany. Microsoft offers a Web search system that is now going to provide a safe haven for those clever enough to click for cash. The Fast Search technology suite includes a Web index and an arguably more relevant Web search service available on beleaguered Yahoo at
The Google exhibit remained above the fray with its perky wizards and wizardettes pushing the Google Search Appliance and handing out Google-emblazoned trinkets.
Against this backdrop, Google’s management is obsessing about making search better. Microsoft is buying traffic in an effort to make its Web search system regain lost market share.
For my endnote, Google and Microsoft are not just separated by market success. The gap is between an organization that spends money to make a free service better and an organization that wants to buy traffic.
My thought is that a free, quality search has more credibility than a search system that pays me to use it. More problematic is the irony of a company with a better Web search solution ignoring that approach, indeed acting as if it had not spent $1.2 billion for that very same search technology, at one of the most important search conferences held in North America.
The message I’m going to put in my endnote is that Microsoft is calling attention to its search struggles, not taking steps to fix them. Microsoft may be fueling greater aggressiveness among vendors who sell fixes to SharePoint, showing that it lacks a search strategy with its handling of the Microsoft and Fast Search exhibits, and announcing payola at the precise moment Google says, “We’re using plain old engineering to make our technology better.”
Actions speak louder than words. I’m going to skip the payola opportunity and back the nerd stallion in the search race.
Stephen Arnold, May 21, 2008


2 Responses to “Payola Pony or Nerd Stallion: Who Will Win the Search Derby?”

  1. David Hobbie on May 22nd, 2008 2:17 pm

    Steven, thank you for the perspective on the FAST acquisition and news about the Enterprise Search Summit (I also like the data bunny picture). I’m not surprised by your comments about the total lack of integration of effort at this summit between those companies.

    I didn’t attend this year in part because in my area (legal) the choices are quite limited and obvious. But it’s good to hear about overall trends. I wonder what the focus will be next year.

  2. stallion search on July 31st, 2008 3:19 am

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