U Rank: Another Microsoft Search Innovation

October 24, 2008

A happy quack to the reader who alerted me to U Rank. I did some poking around and located a useful article in the October 21, 2008, InfoWorld here. Heather Havenstein’s “Microsoft Prototype Search Engine Personalizes Results” provides a good summary of the reason Microsoft keeps innovating in search–Google. For me, the most significant comment in her article is this quote from a Microsoft Web log:

“U Rank is a research project to help us learn more about how people organize search results as they go about larger information tasks, how people collaboratively search, and generally, how people edit and share searches,” the company said “We believe that finding something on the Web is only the first step for many tasks. To better support people as they are exploring a topic, U Rank has general support for organizing, annotating, remembering, and sharing search results.”

To access the service, I had to sign up for a Microsoft ID. I had some trouble figuring out the captchas. Once I was able to key the eight letters, I was on my way. I must admit that I forget my new Microsoft ID. My “old” Hotmail ID no longer works, and I haven’t bothered to figure out why.

You can begin the process to access the U Rank system by clicking here. If you can’t get this url to work, you will have to back track and run searches on Live.com in order to find the path to this service. Here’s a typical result set:

you rank results

I ran a number of queries and noticed that the relevance ranking was okay, but I didn’t think it was as useful to me as Google’s results for the same queries. For example, when I searched for the name of this Web log, the number one result on U Rank was an SEO company named “Beyond Search”. On Google, the first hit is to this Web log.

The unique features of the service were:

  • A pop up window that allowed me to delete a result or perform other actions on a single hit
  • A feature to allow me to add friends with a mouse click. I didn’t recognize any of the suggested names
  • Social functions such as sharing favorite sites with friends and making recommendations.

U Rank is a social search system. I think a number of features will appeal to those who are interested in creating bundles of Web sites to share and getting a Mahalo-type component in a Web search system. I am not confident that the mass of present Web search users will perceive U Rank as a suitable alternative to Google. A great deal of engineering went into this demonstration site, but as it existed when I ran test queries, but I don’t think it will leap frog Google. Perhaps in time? Agree? Disagree?

Stephen Arnold, October 24, 2008


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