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5/20/2009
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Microsoft's 'Kumo' Search Engine Rebranded 'Bing'?

Whatever the software is called, it will likely feature search result categorization and other refinements designed to make general queries more specific.

Hot on the heels of Google's annual search technology update and a similar event held by Yahoo on Tuesday, Microsoft next week is expected join the search scrum with renewed vigor.

The company is expected to demonstrate Kumo, its new search engine, at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif.

Microsoft's old search engine, Windows Live Search, has been unable to gain ground against Google, despite innovative schemes like paying businesses and consumers to use its search engine with programs like Microsoft Service Credits for Web Search, SearchPerks, and Live Search cash back.

In November 2007, Microsoft's share of U.S. searches stood at 9.8%, according to ComScore. At the end of April 2009, its share had dropped to 8.2%.

Microsoft's new search engine, whether it's named Kumo or something that sounds less like a vegan sandwich spread, aims to reverse that trend. The company remains coy about whether the Kumo brand will be kept.

"As for rebranding, it's something we're still considering," Live Search general manager Mike Nichols said in a blog post in March.

Danny Sullivan, of Search Engine Land, claims four names are in the running: Kumo, Bing, Hook, and Sift.

Hook seems unlikely, given that just as Google employees have come to be known as "Googlers," Hook engineers, or perhaps its users, might face the prospect of being referred to as "Hookers." Any continuation of Microsoft's previous payment schemes to solicit search-engine use would only make matters worse.

Sullivan predicts the new name will be Bing, based on Microsoft's ownership of the domain.

Microsoft has been testing Kumo internally and to date has not provided much detail about how its new search engine will differ from Windows Live Search. A screenshot of a Kumo search results page for the query "bose lifestyle 48" looks remarkably similar to a Live Search results page for the same query. The only significant difference in the screenshot is the presence of links representing the user's previous searches. The new design looks more colorful, too.

Kumo, or whatever it's eventually called, will likely feature search result categorization and other refinements designed to make general queries more specific. But it's unlikely to immediately put Google on the defensive. As the history of Ask.com has shown, innovative features don't always translate into market leadership.

Still, those worried about Google's search dominance may find a new start for Microsoft is just the excuse they need to jump ship and support the underdog, the largest software company in the world.


InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of what it takes to tackle enterprise search. Download the report here (registration required).

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