By Harry McCracken | Friday, March 13, 2009 at 2:55 pm
LiveSide.net has a screenshot of the home page of “Kumo,” the next-generation Microsoft search engine which is currently in internal use at the company, and which may or may not be called Kumo when it goes public. It looks a lot like the current Live Search home page, which is dominated by a big striking photograph with hotspots that take you to search results relating to the image. The LiveSide image jibes with my only personal exposure to Kumo, which happened last week when I met with a Microsoft exec who had it loaded up in his browser; there, too, it had the Live Search-style photo teaser.
We still don’t know much about Kumo, though–and with search engines even more than most things in the world of tech, it’s hard to form even preliminary impressions without a fair amount of hands-on time. The bottom line with Kumo or any other would-be Googlekiller will ultimately be whether it helps you find relevant information more quickly than Google. Which would require that it make dramatic strides over Live Search, which usually leaves me less than completely satisfied when I use it. (I’m willing to confront the possibility that I’m so comfortable with Google that its style of results, and my understanding of how to form queries that will get me what I want, influence my impression of other search engines–but even taking that into account, Live Search results usually feel less far smart and refined than Google ones. To me, at least.)
Can we all agree that everyone involved would be best served if the weird tango between Microsoft and Yahoo ended soon–either with a breakup or with marriage? Kumo may be a Japanese word for cloud, but until the question of whether Microsoft and Yahoo will work together on search is resolved, there’s a little gloomy raincloud lurking above Microsoft’s homegrown search efforts, such as Kumo. Or whatever it ends up being called.