Microsoft Kumo Search to Take on Google. Again.

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Microsoft have Google in their sightsMicrosoft have announced they are testing a new search engine, Kumo, on their corporate network. If the test is successful, Kumo will be rolled into 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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