More on the New Search Betas from Microsoft and Google

TechCrunch � Google v. Microsoft: New Search Interfaces Michael Arrington is out with a post on Google and Microsoft’s new interfaces that they are both testing out. Google has some new ho hum green bars that would appear to indicate how much content is available in images, groups, news, froogle, local, etc. and Windows live has some coolish looking ajaxy type eye candy going for their image search.

Arrington kind of pans both services saying: “In my opinion, both are lacking but for very different reasons. After testing each, Google’s new interface doesn’t seem to actually do much of anything, and Live.com, while inspired, is very poor in actual performance, mostly speed.”

What Arrington of course has neglected to compare to Google and Microsoft on image search though is the vast superiority that Yahoo! has over both Microsoft and Google today in the image search world through a little known (I jest) app called Flickr.

Windows Live Image Search
Windows Live Image Search Beta — all ajazzyjaxy like.

I do like what Microsoft has done with image search on the main page all sexy like and ajax and all. The images load as you scroll down the page and as you hover over them they enlarge. Very slick. I agree with Arrington that it’s a little too slow — but the bigger problem is that the search results are friggin’ lame. Who cares how good your layout looks if you can’t address the bigger question of relevancy. Remember folks, content is king. Let’s take a look at an image search for “San Francisco” for the new Windows live.

First off below is what Windows Live thinks is the most relevant image of San Francisco. Ok, so I get it, yeah it’s Fishermen’s Wharf, all sanfranciscy like and all. But the photo is lame. It’s a poorly composed, low res image that links to some travel hype site (obviously good at doing their SEO homework) pitching a bus tour. Lame.

Microsoft Image Search Top Result for San Francisco

Image number one returned for the search query “San Francisco” on Windows Live Image Search.

Ok, let’s look at some more images from the top 40 results for San Francisco. All of the images below should *not* be on the first page result search results for images for San Francisco. Below, we have some weird shot of a helicopter training exercise that appears twice on the first page results for some reason, some aerial shot that means nothing, a bad graphic (complete with IGJS logo) of the floor plan of the Cow Palace and two tiny photos (one of the airport Radison, yum and one of some cheesy stock photo thing with a man and a woman at a desk).

Windows Live, Selections from the first 40 images in an image search query for the term San Francisco
First page results for the image search term “San Francisco” on Windows Live.

Now, instead let’s look at the top search result rated by interestingness over at Yahoo (er, Flickr) for the search term San Francisco.

Toy Houses
Yahoo (er Flickr’s) number one search result for the term San Francisco

Ok, I’m biased as it’s my image, but it’s far, far better than what Microsoft gave us. And instead of all of the crappy first page image results from Windows Live, instead you get the beautiful shots below when searching for San Francisco on Yahoo! (er Flickr).

Flickr, Selections from the first 40 images in an image search query for San Francisco
From the first 40 images of images done under a search for “San Francisco” ranked by interestingness on Flickr. Note the above images, bridge and fog, by John Curly, Golden Gate Bridge by wmchu, flourescent sunshine, by SFBuckaroo, geometry of death II, by Deborah Lattimore, Timber Brune by coba and I would be remiss of course without including another front page one of mine, Kiss (the streets of San Francisco at their finest with love 2.0 couple Tara Hunt and Chris Messina).

Now in fairness, the images I selected from Yahoo (er Flickr) are pretty good and the images I selected from first page results from Windows Live were pretty cheesy, but answer me this, which set of images make you want to come visit San Francisco more?

It’s also worth noting that with the Yahoo (er Flickr) search results, not only are the results largely adversiting free, but all of the images are elegantly displayed on simple easy to navigate pages and include high res versions that you can download yourself.

Flickr, like Windows Live and Google’s newfangeled e-orama-meter thingy, is also in beta. Like Windows Live, it also relies heavily on all things ajax, but… with *much better relevancy*. It should only be a matter of time before Yahoo! finally integrates Flickr photos more heavily into Yahoo! Image Search and more than any little eye candy tweaks this will make all the difference in the world. What Google took from Yahoo in terms of web search relevancy, Yahoo can (at least with Flickr) take back in image search relevancy.

If I were Google and Microsoft right now I’d be thinking about where I could find about 2 million or so users to rank my pictures on the cheap rather than wasting time on all this other stuff.

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4 Comments

  1. miss rogue says:

    This is brilliant, Thomas. Okay…so I’m biased ’cause my favourite photo of yours is here…but seriously. You hit the nail on the head with:

    “…but answer me this, which set of images make you want to come visit San Francisco more?”

    Totally. I return to Flickr time and time again to ‘borrow’ photos to illustrate my points on my blog. Gee, sometimes I just go there to be amazed by the images. 😉

  2. I think you missed it a little bit. It’s an image search, not a photo search.

    I search for “flower icon” on google, live.com, and flickr. Google had the best results, live.com was ok, but Flickr had nothing.

    If I want to search for photos, I’ll use flickr, but if I want something else, I’ll use google.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I can appreciate your suggestion of what makes me want to visit san fran more – however, it really is a question of intent. Flickr is more about photos, while msn and google are about the more encompasing “images”. a good image search should yeild a nice cross-section of results that can be drilled down. ie: photo type stuff, illustrations, landmarks, signs, etc. while i agree that if I am looking for photography of san fran that would encourage me to visit, then yeah – flickr wins.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Scott and anonymous. I’m not suggesting that Flickr *replace* Yahoo! Image Search but that rather it complements it. Flickr is not near as exhaustive enough to cover the breadth of Google, Yahoo or Microsoft. The point is though that by giving Flickr ranked images priority over other Yahoo! ranked images where possible, you will create a better user experience.

    Chances are that when people are searching for “San Francisco” they are not searching for low res cheesy photos of the Ramada Inn. If they searched for Ramada Inn, San Francisco, then maybe yes, that shot should come up.

    Yahoo will dominate image search once they integrate the top ranked flickr results into the overall Yahoo image search algorithm. No one else comes close to image search relevancy.