Microsoft have announced they are testing a new search engine, Kumo, on their corporate network. If the test is successful, Kumo will be rolled into Live.com or possibly introduced as a new search site.
The company have worked hard to build a better, more competitive, search engine. The indexing system will understand entire sentences and the relationships between individual words. In theory, it will lead to more accurate results.
Does anyone have a feeling of déjà vu? We have been here several times before with both Microsoft and other companies claiming they have a Google-beater. Big claims and big launches are regularly followed by big failures.
It is understandable why Microsoft want to take on Google; they are the biggest threat to the company’s future revenues. A better search engine will hit Google where it hurts. Unfortunately, no matter how good Kumo is, it will struggle:
- Introducing a new search engine takes time. Google was launched in 1997 and it still took two or three years to become a mainstream success. Microsoft need instant results and it is highly unlikely to happen.
- Ten years ago, Google was far better than the competition. How much better? Twice as good? Three times? It is impossible to put a figure on it, but the difference was significant. Kumo can not hope to match that: it may be 25% faster and more accurate than Google, but the difference will feel negligible.
- Google is a brand that is synonymous with searching the web. In the same way that people refer to “drinking a Coke” or “hoovering their room”, users will “Google” for keywords. Brand recognition such as that occurs once or twice in a generation; it can not be forced or bought no matter how hard Microsoft try.
I hope Kumo is as good as Microsoft claim. Competition is always a good thing and Google should not become complacent. However, can anyone realistically create a better search engine when Google is good enough for most people?