Always keen to learn how users search, Microsoft has started testing a new search engine called U Rank.
U Rank, which requires users to sign in with a Windows Live ID before searching, allows users to edit, organize, and annotate search results, then share them with others, giving Microsoft valuable data on what people are looking for when they perform searches.
Microsoft explains that U Rank is a “research prototype, to help us learn more about how people use such technologies so we can continue to innovate.”
“We believe that finding something on the web is only the first step for many tasks. To better support people as they are exploring a topic, comparing information, keeping track of what they’re learning, and collaborating with others, U Rank has general support for organizing, annotating, remembering, and sharing search results.” says Emre Kiciman from the Microsoft Research Team.
Here are the benefits of U Rank for users as outlined by Microsoft:
- Organize and annotate results: write notes to summarize important information under each URL
- Lists: keep lists while you’re researching (“hotels for my next trip”, “DSLRs for me”)
- Collaboration: Share URLs with friends (“related projects”, “our reading list”)
- Recommendations: Tell your friends what you like (“best books,” “favorite restaurants”)
- Multimedia results: Mix video and images with web results for added context
- Ego-boosting: Make sure your home page is #1 (at least for you and your friends)
- Easy to explore what your friends are sharing
- Short-cuts: Move your favorite sites up; then put an ! in front of the query and go straight to the top result
I see most of these benefits as actually being more beneficial for Microsoft rather than the users themselves. What do you think?
Its great to see that Microsoft is being proactive in trying to improve their users search experience, although they will have to do a lot more experimenting and learning to even come close to catching up to Google.