Microsoft employees Kumo wrestling

3 Mar 2009

Google may have the search game all sewn up for the moment, but that won’t stop Microsoft innovating and changing its own Windows Live Search service. The software giant is playing around with a new search tool known as Kumo, and from the leaked internal memos circulating around the web, it seems as though employees are being asked to give it a test drive.

Kumo is apparently the Japanese word for either spider or cloud, and either word works well in the context of a brand-new search engine.

A Microsoft employee has confirmed to CNET that Kumo is indeed being tested among employees, but referred to the project as “an internal test environment”.

Meanwhile, All Things Digital has posted three large images of the search engine in action.

The results page is completely different from the current Live Search and actually looks a little bit like – a white background returning results complete with pictures, while headers are a vivid blue and URLs are in green.

However, the advertising along the right-hand side of the results does look quite Google Ads-esque.

The navigation bar across the top has MSN and Windows Live links, while the official label on the bottom declares it to be Windows Live beta (Kumo is only the internal codename being used for now).

The search by Swisher for ‘Bose Lifestyle 48’ reports 394,000 results, whereas the current Windows Live Search only returns 359,000 for the same page, indicating a lot more indexing going on in the background.

Google, on the other hand, returns 143,000 for this search string.

What really stands out on the sample searches is the fact that results seem to be arranged in categories relevant to the particular search string.

For example, on searching for recording artist Taylor Swift, the results are grouped into images, songs, lyrics, biography, music, albums and video.

This contextually aware result could have something to do with the fact that Microsoft acquired natural language-driven search engine PowerSet last July.

More interesting, however, is the fact that this is not the only search engine being looked at internally: Viveri is a project by Microsoft Research, which combines social networking and search and returns multiple results, including those grouped into tag clouds and images.

Not to mention the colour-structured image search project at Microsoft Research Asia which uses rough colour strokes, so searching for flowers need not mean returning thousands of odd-coloured/shaped blossoms if you have a  rough idea of what you want.

So it seems that Microsoft may be far from dominant in the search stakes, but is quietly (or not so quietly) chipping away at new technologies it reckons will improve search as we currently experience it.

By Marie Boran