Microsoft BrowseRank Round Up

August 8, 2008

Looking to compete with Google’s PageRank program, BrowseRank is a Microsoft-developed method of computing page importance for use in Internet search browsers.

The computations are based upon user behavior data and algorithms to “leverage hundreds of millions of users’ implicit voting on page importance.” (So says a Microsoft explanatory paper [http://research.microsoft.com/users/tyliu/files/fp032-Liu.pdf]). The whole point is to add “the human factor” to search to bring up more results people actually want to see.

On July 27 SEO Book posted a review/opinion [http://www.seobook.com/microsoft-search-browserank-research-reviewed] since Steve posted about BrowseRank here [https://arnoldit.com/wordpress/2008/07/26/microsofts-browser-rank/].Summary: While it’s a good idea, there are drawbacks like false returns because of heavy social media traffic, link sites, etc. Sites like Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube are popping up high on the list – not because they have good, solid, popular information, but just because they’re high traffic. Microsoft will have to combine its BrowseRank user feedback information with other data to be really useful. On the other hand, if Microsoft can collect this user data over a longer term, the info would more likely pan out. For example, BrowseRank will measure time spent on a site to help determine importance and relevance.

A blog post on WebProNews [http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2008/07/28/browserank-the-next-pagerank-says-microsoft] on July 28 said flat out: “It shouldn’t be the links that come in, but the time spent browsing a relevant page, that should help determine where a page ranks for a given query.” So that idea lends some credence to BrowseRank’s plan. The next step is how Microsoft will acquire all that information – obviously through things like their Toolbar, but what else? (Let’s ignore, for now, screams about Internet browsing privacy.) If MSN’s counting on active participation from users, it won’t work. This blog post points out that “Google’s PageRank succeeds partially due to its invisibility.” And that’s what users expect.

browserank-results

Graphic from Microsoft Research Asia

For now, and granted there’s only this small bit of info out there, SEO Book says, in their opinion, PageRank (Google’s product) has the one up on Microsoft because it sorts informational links higher, connects them to Google’s advertising, and because Google has the ability to manipulate the information.

You can read this for more info on Microsoft vs. Google: CNET put out a pretty substantial article [http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-9999038-93.html] on July 25 talking about PageRank vs. BrowseRank and what Microsoft hopes to accomplish.

But let’s look for brass tacks. I want to know how fast BrowseRank is and how it compares to Google’s PageRank. If it’s just as fast and get better results, no brainer, right? There’s a really involved explanation of how the process will work included in that Microsoft paper, using “an embedded Markov Chain based technology.” Being a layman, this means nothing to me. (If you want to know, try here [http://dixonjones.com/seo/browserank-microsofts-challange-to-pagerank-part-1/]). But I have to say, if MSN is going to sift user information, time spent on web sites, and more variables (esp. compared to searching links by page hits), seems to me that will chew up some user’s patience.

So how does this make Microsoft’s search better than Google’s?

It is too soon to tell. As far as I can tell the system’s in testing, and that paper referenced above is the first major findings. But Microsoft better keep their hands on the wheel – Google is always working on its search; they’re not standing still. And there are lots of other little ranking programs out there too (Alexa, for example). So if they’re serious about this, Redmond better giddy up and go before those search cows wander back to the Google Ranch.

Jessica Bratcher for Beyond Search, August 8, 2008

Comments

4 Responses to “Microsoft BrowseRank Round Up”

  1. BrowseRank Round Up | Easycoded on August 8th, 2008 1:24 am

    […] Beyond Search with easycoded.com reports onHere’s what its about […]

  2. Jenniferlauren on August 8th, 2008 1:18 pm

    As far as BrowseRank is concerned, very interesting, although this has been tried before. DirectHit had a search engine built entirely on clickstream data (Acquired by Ask.com in 2000). They got the data from ISPs in those days. The end-result is really not that much better than Page-Rank.

    We at Me.dium on the other hand (http://me.dium.com/search) are processing our user’s clickstream data in real-time to create a different lens based on what’s going on now. e.g. do a search for John Edwards on Google or Live, and you get johnedwards.com and wiki/johnedwards. Do the same search on Me.dium and you learn that today people care about his love child, pictures of his mistress, etc. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

  3. Microsoft BrowseRank Round Up | Easycoded on August 9th, 2008 2:37 pm

    […] August 9, 2008 ScottGu […]

  4. Stephen E. Arnold on August 9th, 2008 9:51 pm

    Jenniferlauren,

    Thanks for the post. I appreciate your referencing the late, once promising DirectHit.com. I have not yet looked at http://me.dium.com/search, however.

    Stephen Arnold, August 10, 2008

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