When it comes to search, Microsoft’s more Rymans League than Premiership – while Google handles 41 per cent of all web searches, MSN pulls in a dismal 13 per cent.
That could be about to change, though, if our first impression of Microsoft’s new search engine is anything to judge by. Renamed Windows Live Search, the new search tool has been built into Live.com a customisable portal site that you can fit out with your Hotmail, weather alerts and RSS feeds such as Stuff’s gadget feed (over here).
We’ve been having a play with the search and reckon Microsoft could be on to something here – in a couple of areas Windows Live Search is actually better than Google.
The main party trick is the image search, which hides data such as web page names and file names until you hover your mouse over the thumbnail you’re currently looking at. It makes for much cleaner-looking results than Google Images. Microsoft’s also added a slider bar that lets you adjust the size of the thumbnails, zooming in and out on the photos you’re viewing.
Other features of note? Well, the smart scroll certainly deserves a postcard home. Instead of having to click on to results page 2, 3, 4 and so forth, you can simply keep scrolling down with your scrollwheel, displaying up to 1,000 results on a single page. It’s a simple, ingenious idea that works a treat.
Also neat are the Macros – plug-ins to search for specific things or in specific ways. There’s one, for example, that lets you search for UK celebs, skimming through sites such as BBC and Sky before looking elsewhere.
The search results themselves are fairly similar to Google, Ask and Yahoo, though only time will tell on how accurate they are.
You can try Windows Live Search for yourself over at www.live.com right now and there’s a Live Toolbar for Internet Explorer coming soon.