By Harry McCracken | Monday, November 24, 2008 at 3:36 am
I don’t think this is even a rumor yet so much as a random shard of speculation, but it’s all over the Web: Folks are wondering whether Microsoft is planning to rebrand Live Search, its confusingly-named search engine, as Kumo, a moniker it apparently controls.
I’m usually a skeptic when it comes to attempts to improve something’s chances of success by changing its name–especially when that something is owned by Microsoft, a company with a long history of replacing one clunky name with another when the real problem is that the product needs work. In this case, though, I wouldn’t argue the point–the search engine’s name is such a failure on so many levels that starting over again might make sense.
(Side note: I’m trying to remember whether the full name of the engine is “Windows Live Search”–it’s not a great sign when it’s hard to even recall a service’s name–but I can’t check right now. I’m still in Beijing, at the airport, and China, or at least the Wi-Fi network here, won’t let me get to live.com.)
Kumo apparently means “spider” or “cloud” in Japanese. (That’s according to the current scuttlebutt, and I’m not sure whether it has two meanings or nobody’s sure what the meaning is–and Google Translate doesn’t know it.) If so, it’s not without logic, but I hope the speculation is wrong. It’s a pretty lifeless name.
LiveSide, which set off the current round of Kumowatching, brings up an important point: There’s a pretty good name for a search site that Microsoft might be able to acquire if wanted to. That name would be Yahoo…