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Live.com Gets New Home Page Ahead Of "Searchification" Next Week

Next week, Microsoft takes a page from the Google Searchology Day book and is planning a special day of its own to talk about its search efforts. Called Searchification, Microsoft has invited a number of bloggers and journalists for the event next week, on September 26. But Microsoft apparently can’t wait to release some things, since Live.com is now sporting a new home page. Below, some background on how this isn’t really Live Search 2.0 (more like 5.0), plus a look at what’s new.

I’ve seen the relaunch described as Live Search 2.0 [NOTE: Microsoft is not calling it this, see postscript below], which sort of makes me want to roll my eyes. That’s because it implies that this is the second generation of Microsoft’s search engine. It’s not. I’ve lost track of how many revamps of both the under-the-hood technology have happened as well changes to the look-and-feel of Microsoft’s search sites, of the years.

But isn’t Live only just now one year old? If you want the detailed history, check out my Microsoft’s "Third Era" Of Search Begins With Departure Of Search Chief Christopher Payne post from March, which covers everything Microsoft has done in web search since 1997.

If you want a Live Search 1.0, that would be in February 2005, when MSN Search starting using Microsoft’s own search technology, rather than depending on Yahoo’s. Sure, it was called MSN Search, but Searchification isn’t really about Live Search but rather improvements Microsoft has made to its search technology, regardless of the flagship brand name that uses it.

So Live Search 2.0 now? Nah. Since February 2005, there are a number of technological changes — substantial ones — that Microsoft has made.

True, MSN Search was abandoned in when the separate Live Search site that started in March 2006 came out of beta on September 12, 2006 and began taking over the queries that MSN Search previously ran. Here’s how it looked back then:

Windows Live Search Home Page

Here’s how it looked before this week’s change:

Live.com Home Page: September 18, 2007

Not much difference. Video and News search links are provided, along with an MSN link. MSN Is Back! At Least As Button On Live.com from August covers how that MSN button suddenly showed up, a seeming revitalization of the MSN brand. As for that Video link, it wasn’t there in August, so it’s a relatively new addition.

And the new look, spotted yesterday by Gary Price and others like LiveSide? Here you go:

Live.com Home Page: September 19, 2007

The MSN link goes away. LiveSide’s screenshot caught the Video option on the home page yesterday, but that’s now gone completely, even if you click that More button:

Live.com Home Page More Box: Sept. 19, 2007

All you see there are options for Academic, Classifieds, Feeds and Local search. That leads to this oddity. Actually do a search, and you get the old style look-and-feel:

Live.com Search Results: September 19, 2007

Weird, right? If you’re going to change the home page, change the results, as well. Moreover, click on the More button inside, and you get this:

Live.com SERPS More Box: Sept. 19, 2007

Now you see some further search options shown: Books, Products, QnA and Video. FYI, Microsoft Monday: Today’s Google Free Alternative from July explains how many of these specialized search features work.

Overall, Microsoft’s search products have seen many design changes over time. Many changes, so many that it gets worrisome, making you think why doesn’t Microsoft know what works yet?

Frequency of design changes is often a sign to me that a search engine that doesn’t know quite what to do. We saw AltaVista go through this in its declining days, moving the deck chairs around before it finally sank as a major service. In contrast, Google and Yahoo are both very strong search engines that have made relatively minor changes to how they look and feel. That reinforces that they know what they’re doing or have something that works, rather than floundering about.

Sounds pretty negative. Well, yeah — stop messing with the results pages and leave things alone! But I will say that I’ve seen some of the under-the-hood stuff that’s to come, and those are changes that do help the quality of the service. Hopefully, we’ll see the look-and-feel get really locked down and further development of the under-the-hood stuff continue. And yes, we will have coverage here on Search Engine Land of all the news out of next week’s Searchification day.

Postscript: Microsoft sends word that it is not calling the relaunch Live Search 2.0 externally. There were some screenshots used for internal purposes that said this, but that was to distinguish between last year’s formal launch of Live.com and the changes happening this fall. Says Microsoft: "The team has been very vocal that we’re in the fourth or fifth generation of search at Microsoft." Microsoft also stressed that the home page change is just a tiny part of the changes that will be coming, and that you’ll hear about more during next week’s event.

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