Live Search is actually getting pretty good these days!

image Live Search got a refresh recently and it's actually pretty good, dare I say may be even better than Google.

  • Performance: The load times are very snappy now and it feels pretty much on par with google performance.
  • Image Search: Functionality on Image Search has been superior for some time with the ability to size the thumbnails and I quite like the "add to scratchpad" feature but wish it was available for video and web content as well. The ability to refine the search by size, aspect ratio, colour, Style (photo vs. illustration) and Face (i.e. head & shoulders, just face, etc.) is brilliant. It's not 100% accurate, but it is still quite useful. Google can do a subset of this, but frankly, never noticed it until I went looking for it. These features are more discoverable in Live. I have to say that I'm in love with the fact that I can preview the context of the pages split screen so I don't leave my list of results. As far as relevancy goes, I'm going to have to give it a try for a week. Google does a better job finding pictures of me, but Live does a better job of finding black & whites of Darryl Sittler.  Live found 12 good b&w's of the Sitler while google found absolutely nothing of relevance. Unfortunately, Live fails my vanity image search and google prevails with more pictures of me. 
  • Video Search: I honestly have never used video search on live or google until this blog entry. Live has a nice feature where it can play videos from the results page by just hovering over the thumbnails. It can't do it for every video type, some you have to click on but it is a lovely feature when it works which from what I can tell is about 60% of the time. Google only manages to get 10 thumbnails per page where live gets twice that. Live brought back a few extra total results. It seems like google favours primarily youtube.
  • Map Search: Mileage seems to vary greatly depending on where you are searching. Live has the great integrated 3D maps with buildings, contoured terrain and birds eye view vs. google with street view as it's killer feature. For Canadians, google hasn't made any of these features available yet. Live has thrown us Canadians a few bones with birds eye view available in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. Live also gives us some traffic in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa.

    Live maps has some great directional tools as well. I like the feature where I can just click on a point and ask for 1 click directions - which will give me generic instructions on coming to a location from all major available directions/arteries. This is great if you want to include directions on an invitation but you don't know where everybody is coming from. The Live Map collection editor and the ability to easily add pushpins and draw (with distances) on the map is great.

    One thing I do like about Google maps is the ability to take a set of directions and drag segments around to tell it how I really want to get somewhere. All in all though, I much prefer (as a Canadian) Live Maps as the most

  • Plain Old Web Relevancy: Plain old web results are perhaps the most important criteria. I think this will be impossible to provide any meaningful observations after spending < 1 hour using live search. I'm going to give live a shot as my default search engine for the next week and see how it does but a few immediate observations:
    • Live wins on relevancy for the "Barry Gervin" vanity search, easily. By the bottom of the first page (items 7th-9th), Google is showing results that are irrelevant - in fact, no mention of Barry or Gervin on any of those pages.
    • Searching for some things that I know are on MSDN Forums - posted yesterday, google seems to be crawling that site faster than Live. Google still has a dedicated newsgroups search engine. I used to use this a lot more than I currently do so I have mixed emotions about live search. In fact, in some of my tests for searching things that I knew were known to exist in newsgroups, live search actually referred me to google groups - so it does appear that live is indexing the google groups search engine. I think the thing I find most appealing about google groups is not the content that it finds, but the way it presents it, showing me what group a result was found in, and then making the detailed results essentially a web based NNTP client. Live could do much more than they are doing now that's for sure, I'm just not sure that it really matters.
    • I'm making more and more use of google alerts to have things I am constantly tracking or researching searched and emailed to me. Live has no equivalent to this.

I'm going to give Live Search a trial as my default search engine for the next week or so and see how it goes. I'm optimistic.