Remember how I all told you last week how it would soon be Goodbye MSN Search, Hello Windows Live Search, well Microsoft yesterday announced the release from beta of Windows Live Search and of Live.com in 47 markets worldwide, and final availability of Windows Live Local Search in the U.K. and the U.S.
But it dosent stop there, because of course Microsoft also announced that Windows Live Search will now power the Web search capability on MSN, the company’s media and entertainment portal which attracts more than 465 million unique users worldwide per month.
The launch of Live Search is a significant milestone for our services business, with our core search and monetization platform ready for prime time for MSN and Windows Live as well as for partners through syndication deals, said Christopher Payne, corporate vice president of Live Search at Microsoft. We now have the base to weave search through our services in ways that bring value to customers. This is just the beginning. We look forward to continued investment in search to deliver services that bring new levels of control and personalization to the Web experience.
Here’s what’s new in Live Search:
- A clean, custom interface – The new interface updates not only the colors and fonts of the service, but the design and layout as well. The new scope bar enables you to see search results from the Web, images, local maps/directions, videos, etc without having to re-enter your query in the search box. The scope bar remembers your most recent scopes like Video or Academic so your search experience will feel very personalized.
- Related Searches help you refine your query by simply clicking on a list of related terms (try Jaguar, Las Vegas, CSI). We’ve found that helping our customers refine their queries is one of the biggest things we can do to help people find their answers.
- Image Search delivers a new rich experience tailored for the task of searching for pictures. It includes: Smart Scroll, which gets rid of pagination; meta data surfaced by hovering over an image vs. having words clutter up your results; dynamic image resizing; related people lists that are addictive (try Oprah Winfrey, Katharine McPhee, Tom Hanks); and lastly a scratch pad for images since we know most people searching on images want access to multiple images and this is a quick and easy way to save your results to access them later.
- Local Search is getting more robust everyday and this release provides new or updated imagery for 25 U.S. cities, meaning we are covering about 30% of the U.S. population now. There are also some new additions to collections and access to White Pages data. Check out the service or check out the blog for more details.
- Live QnA beta makes its full public debut! We’ve been out for a bit now but are now baked into the search scope bar and are no longer in a closed beta. We are excited about this vertical because it can bring the community into your search experience; if Web search doesn’t answer your questions right away, get the answer from real people! Live QnA is particularly powerful due to its tight integration with other Live social services, like Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Spaces.
- Video Search beta can be found here or under the More tab in the scope bar along with a host of other beta verticals like Academic and Product Search as well as links to Live Macros where you effectively create your own search engine, or browse ones created by others in the community (try a macro I created for my hobby Poker try searching for Phil).
And here’s what’s new in Live Local:
- Lets start with people search. At the top of the page are the search controls. Select ‘People’ as the type of search, then Enter a name and a place to begin the search. Hit the search button and the map should update and a results panel appears with matching names. Results for People searches work just like a business search – Drag the map or zoom in and the queries will all refresh. You can have up to three queries active at a time, and you can mix and match between people and businesses. You can also search by phone number – just enter a 10 digit number in the first field and hit search to find the corresponding listing.
- Draw on your maps. In the last release of Live Local we introduced the Collection feature, allowing you to draw a series of pushpins on the map, save them, and easily share them with others via a simple perma-link. With this release, we’ve extended Collections with the ability to add lines and closed shapes to your map. Along with the familiar pushpin tool on the Scratchpad, you’ll now find a bunch of drawing tools. You have control over line thickness, fill color, line color and line pattern. You can draw multi-segment lines or complex closed shapes. While its not exactly Adobe Illustrator, it is quite an impressive set of basic drawing and editing tools all implemented in Dynamic HTML; No plugins required, and it works very well in Firefox 1.5 (Windows, Mac, Linux), IE6, and IE7.
- Send to Phone and Call for Free. The Previous release of Live Local introduced a feature that allowed you to dial any business in the US free of charge. We’ve now added the ability to Send a Text message to your phone with a business listing’s details. When I hover over any of the search results I get options to Call the business for Free or to SMS their details to my mobile. Call for Free is slick in that it works with any phone by dialing you and the business simultaneously. Selecting Send to Mobile brigs up a dialog for you to enter the mobile phone you want to send the listing to.
- New Birds Eye Imagery. We’ve added dozens of new cities with birds eye coverage in this release. San Diego, Portland, Milwaukee, … here is a growing Collection of them with the newest additions at the end. Lots of smaller cities have been added and many cities where we had coverage in the past have been greatly expanded. Check out Washington DC for instance, where coverage extends deep into the burbs. Also, in many cases it is really the entire county that is covered and not just the cities listed, so just use the pushpins as a start point for exploration. But it’s not just the US in which we are seeing more Birds Eye Imagery but also in places like Cordoba Spain!
- Other enhancements include adding hundreds of thousands of new WiFI access points to our database used for triangulation. So if you are using the ‘Locate me’ feature on a Laptop or Origami, your determined location will be more accurate than ever. We didn’t forget about our Developer community either. This release adds support for drawing Polygons to the API, and fixes a number of bugs reported over the last cycle. The industries most extensive geographic support for geocoding and routing has grown as well.
All of this of course with the help of extensive feedback and ongoing testing of each beta service which has led to marked improvements in the user interface and the overall customer experience of Windows Live. So I guess you could say that these Windows Live milestones represent the first of several more to come this fall that will demonstrate Microsoft’s commitment to building and delivering services that bring new levels of control and personalization to the Web experience.
So go ahead and check out Live.com, Windows Live Search (search.live.com) and Windows Live Local (local.live.com) and then why not let me know if they have improved or not and what still needs to be improved!