Apr 222014

Microsoft has just rolled out an interesting feature called “Bing Predictions,” which will predict the outcomes of TV shows like American Idol, The Voice and Dancing with the Stars. Now, what makes this interesting to me is the technology behind these prognostications.

According to Bing, “The central idea behind the direct approach is that winners and losers correspond to popularity. In broad strokes, we define popularity as the frequency and sentiment of searches combined with social signals and keywords. Placing these signals into our model, we can predict the outcome of an event with high confidence. For The Voice, our model is tuned to account for biases, such as regional preferences, and other measurable and observable trends. We have also learned how to combine the prior popularity of a contestant with the contribution due to his or her performance. Although we might believe that the outcome of this week’s The Voice comes down to how well someone belts out a tune, our data indicates that many people have ‘favorites’ regardless of individual week-to-week performances.”

This may not be of grave concern to the general population of Internet marketers, yet, but you can be sure that the Las Vegas oddsmakers are taking notice. :)


Sep 022010

Nobody likes moving day especially me. But, that’s what it is if you have Yahoo Ads running and you want to (or not) port them over to the Microsoft Bing AdCenter Interface. We knew it was coming.

Microsoft announced several months back that this would be happening and to their credit they are giving us until the end of October to make the switch, which is plenty of time.

According to the email I received:

• If you already have a Yahoo! Search Marketing account: Sign in to your Yahoo! Search Marketing account, and click the adCenter tab to begin transitioning your campaigns into adCenter.
• If you don’t have a Yahoo! Search Marketing account: Prepare your campaigns for Yahoo! Search and Bing. Use Microsoft Advertising Intelligence to update your keyword list based on the actual queries that searchers are using on Bing, and tailor your bidding strategies by looking at performance indicators like clicks, impressions, position, click-through rate, and cost per click.

Now, however if you don’t currently have any ads running in Yahoo and already have a Microsoft Adcenter account setup, you’re in business. Microsoft is doing this before the holiday season which is a bonus as advertisers won’t want the headache (and potential lost revenue) of making a move during the holidays.

As a backup (or back out) plan Microsoft says that if the transition does not go as planned they will delay full integration until January 2011.

Aug 142009

Since Microsoft’s revamped MSN search, now named Bing, was launched in June 2009, the search engine has slowly gained market share in search and shopping. For several years now, MSN search has hung around the 5-percent market share point, with Yahoo over 20-percent and Google between 60 – 70 percent.

After the two month honeymoon phase is over, Bing search has gained a percentage point in the market from 8.23 in June to 9.41 this month. Now, this may not sound like a lot but it makes a Bing / Yahoo partnership more understandable.

Consider that last year Yahoo search was over 20-percent in market share and now its numbers are half of that. Also, consider that Google is around 77.5, so with Bing and Yahoo combining forces, there will once again be some semblance of competition.

Bing has also made significant strides in another area as well. Bing Shopping has increased 169-percent since its debut in June. Bing Shopping is now the 4th largest shopping comparison site (with Yahoo Shopping in 1st place).

And, just this week, Microsoft has announced Bing Shopping’s Double Cashback promotion. By purchasing from merchants enrolled in the Cashback promotion, Microsoft will send you a direct check.

In the Bing interface, you sign up under the Extras pull down in the top right corner and then any store that displays the Cashback logo will qualify you for a Microsoft check. Now, for years Microsoft has been lackadaisical about search.

Bill Gates a couple of years ago even commented about how Microsoft underestimated the value of search from the very beginning. But, in 2 months time, Bing has made some serious headway as a tool to search for both information and products.

It may take a while before Bing takes a ding out of Google and gives us a bang for our buck. Google followers are a loyal bunch. But, building a better mousetrap will always turn people in your direction and so let’s see in the weeks and months to come if Bing becomes such a mousetrap.

Sep 022005

VoIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol is a hot new technology for making digital phone calls over the Internet and avoiding charges assigned by your local and long-distance phone companies. Google and Yahoo currently have their mitts in VoIP and now MSN is trying to get elbow deep in the new emerging technology as well.

It looks imminent now that the big search engines are going to go head-to-head with VoIP service providers such as Skype and Vonage along with the cable companies and even the Baby Bells such as Verizon and AT&T, which were slow to market and just now getting their feet wet in the VoIP money pond.

MSN has acquired a company named Teleo Inc., which will be incorporated into the MSN services infrastructure, such as MSN Messenger to allow free PC-to-PC calling. When Teleo first rolled out their beta in 2003, the software allowed customers to use their PC to make VoIP calls to cell phones, regular phone or PCs. Microsoft may also resume some of this same functionality in addition to providing new services.

Microsoft has made this move in order to compete with Google Talk, which is also an instant messenger / VOIP application useful for making free calls over the Internet. Another rival is Yahoo, which has supported VoIP through its messaging service for some time. Yahoo has also been making noise about bringing forth a separate application for making calls over the Internet.

So, just when you thought world domination was on the back burner, the Big 3 search engines vie with the other big players in VoIP, cable and local / long distance markets for a piece of the new, emerging telecom pie. It will be interesting in the months and years to come to watch how the players jockey for position in the VoIP Derby, estimated to be worth millions in cash and prizes.

Jun 282005

Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer vowed recently that in the next 6 months, MSN Search will serve up results that are as relevant as the Google results. According to an article in ZDNet, Ballmer added that, “Search has more relevance than just the desktop. It’s important for people who search a corporate network. We’ll use search to peer into a range of business applications which would allow multiple applications to be searched simultaneously.”

Ballmer is referring to MSN’s newest Neural Net & “RankNet Technology, where current reports of renewed relevance in search have been exciting. In a Microsoft white paper about gradient descent, they outline some of the mathematics behind the newest MSN algorithm.
One of the problems that MSN has faced and still faces is its interface. Most people go to MSN.com only to find a search box hidden at the top among an entire page of distraction hiding the search interface. Few people even know that a cleaner MSN Search URL exists.

The other question that arises is “Just how relevant do you have to be?” Some argue that all of the current search engines are now relevant and now it’s just a matter of marketing to get the word out and claim to have a better mousetrap. They say that “perceived relevance” is what is important.

No matter whether perceived or real, relevance is something that the big search engines will be fighting over for years to come. The biggest benefit will be to the search consumer, so in this case, competition can only make the mousetraps better.

Apr 272005

When Microsoft’s long-awaited Longhorn operating system is finally rolled out later this year or early next year it will include a new document format that they have dubbed “Metro.” Metro is based on XML (extensible markup language), and is expected to rival Adobe’s PDF (portable document format).

According to Computer World, “The Metro technology is likely to go head-to-head with Adobe’s PostScript technology. ‘It is a potential Adobe killer,’ said Richard Doherty, research director with The Envisioneering Group in Seaford, New York. ‘But this is just the first warning shot. Adobe could put something that is even more compelling [on top of] Longhorn.’”

Metro will be licensed royalty-free. Users will not need a special client in order to open the Metro files and the printing of the files are expected to deliver better and faster results than the current PDF files. Bill Gates made this announcement Monday in Seattle as part of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC).

In addition to Metro, Gates also announced the introduction of 64-bit Windows operating systems and predicted that 64-bit hardware would be mainstream on servers by the end of the year.

What these two announcements mean to the end user is: better and faster. Better and faster printing and better and faster servers and end user PC’s. It’s good to see that after a couple of years on cruise control that Microsoft has finally decided to once again take innovation by the horns, or the Longhorn as it may be.

Mar 222005

MSN.com (Microsoft) search engine has recently announced two new programs for courting advertisers. First, according to the Detroit News, Microsoft will be testing its MSN adCenter in France and Singapore within the next 6 months. Currently, MSN serves up sponsored ads on their search results pages which are delivered by Yahoo! – Overture (or YO! for short). MSN’s contract with Yahoo! for ad delivery runs out in July 2006.

According to Microsoft, “MSN adCenter is the MSN Paid Search solution, which will offer innovative tools in search marketing. The new MSN search advertising solution will put the power and knowledge of the audience in your hands, allowing you to refine your online campaign with flexibility and control to help you maximize ROI.”

The second advertising solution, which MSN is beta testing right now, is MSN Shopping beta, which will replace the current MSN Shopping site and is expected to compete with sites like Shopping.com, Froogle and Yahoo! Shopping. According to MSN, “We are testing new technology to help you find product information easily and make informed buying decisions. Our focus here is to explore new ways to help you search for products, refine your search, sort results in a variety of different ways (by price, popularity, etc.), compare similar products and their cost at different stores and to provide product ratings and reviews by shoppers like yourself.”

The new MSN Shopping site offers yet another avenue to connect buyers and advertisers and compete head on with the other two search giants. In fact, both MSN adCenter and MSN Shopping will help MSN take market share away from Google and Yahoo! and attract new advertisers as well. Currently many advertisers buy PPC ads on Overture in order to get into MSN. The PPC ad rates for MSN adCenter are expected to be far lower than Google or YO!, which will give advertisers yet another alternative for their advertising dollars. MSN’s shopping site will also pull advertisers away from the other two search engines and help MSN to gain ground in the ever growing competition of the search engine wars.

This competition will be great for consumers, advertisers and MSN. It will challenge Google and Yahoo! to keep delivering new and innovative search tools in order to try to retain market share themselves or at least grow the market so that even if their shares decrease, the market will increase and they will still be able to satisfy their own shareholders.

The search wars are just getting started so stay tuned.

Jan 162005

Microsoft announced today that it has developed a new home search utility code-named “OpenGates.” Not to be out done by Google and Yahoo! in the desktop search wars, Microsoft has gone one step further. According to vice president of Content Development and Delivery Group (CDDG) at Microsoft, Dick Kaplan, “OpenGates has teamed up with wireless nanny cam maker, X10 and Global Positioning giant, Magellan to bring PC users a utility that will search their homes for lost car keys, glasses, wallets and even jewelry.”

Based on simple keyword technology, all the user has to do is open the application, type in a keyword such as glasses and OpenGates does a search of your home and will zoom in and circle the item when found. If multiple items are found, then OpenGates will go to the split screen option and give the user several different views. According to Kaplan, “Even if you have lost your kids in a large house, do a keyword search and you will find them in seconds.”

“In the beta version our programmers even added a ‘ransack’ feature where you could actually simulate someone ransacking your home. This was for general entertainment purposes and won’t be available in the non-beta final commercial version.”

When asked whether Microsoft would be collecting data from these searches and instead of the typical ‘no comment’, Kaplan said, “Microsoft needs to know what’s inside our users’ homes. This way we can market to them more effectively.” Further inquiries were left with a ‘No comment’ and afterwards repeated phone calls to Microsoft at press time have been unanswered.

According to one Microsoft product engineer who asked not to be named, “World domination starts at home.”

Now this article may seem a little far-fetched because it is actually a spoof. I got to thinking about this scenario as I was ruminating over the right-to-privacy versus security issue on a national scale and what that may look like if it were brought home.

Internet security has been a huge issue in 2004 and will continue to be even a larger issue in 2005 as well according to Red Hearing online magazine. It is odd, though, that on the Internet, security and privacy go hand-in-hand, while on a national, general level these two issues are most often in conflict.

Anyway, this is my thought for today. Hopefully, you have your web business all locked down with firewalls, virus protection and appropriate permissions given on your web server.