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Nov 24, 2008

Kumo, Live, SearchMash, SearchWiki - The Beat of Change

Microsoft To Rebrand Search. Will It Be Kumo?

Microsoft will relaunch Windows Live Search under a new brand sometime early next year, says a source within the company. What we don’t know is what that new brand will be, although a few names have been thrown around. According to our source, a “final” decision has been made, but very few people inside of Microsoft are aware of it, and it could change.

Now LiveSide is saying there’s evidence the new search brand will be Kumo, which means “cloud” or “spider” in Japanese.

Why would Microsoft go through yet another rebranding effort? Live.com has a lot of different services under its umbrella (some server software, some client software) in addition to search. It’s also a burgeoning social network.

Over time, we’ve heard, Live.com will become a pure social network and personal productivity portal. You’ll go there to access email, calendar, photos, activity streams, etc. But search belongs somewhere else, and it definitely needs a fresh start.

Microsoft won’t comment on the name change, or even if there is a name change. But our sources caution us that nothing has been finalized, and the fate of Yahoo could swing this one way or another as well. So Kumo may very well be the name Microsoft is planning to use, but that decision may change.

Why Did Google Discontinue SearchMash?

Whether you like SearchWiki, the new voting and commenting feature for search results Google introduced last week, or not, it was undeniably a bold move for the company to turn on the feature for everyone with a Google account at once instead of gradually releasing it.

Granted, they had been bucket-testing the feature for a while, but for Google to let users mash up the results they are presented with when searching is a big deal. So it’s a bit of a surprise that while everyone was focused on SearchWiki and what it means for the company, Google next to Lively also decided to kill its search sandbox SearchMash (it went “the way of the dinosaur”) instead of using it to test SearchWiki.

SearchMash was an experimental, non-branded search engine that Google used to be able to play around with new search technologies, concepts and interfaces. It was first introduced in October 2006, and unveiled to the public exactly one year after that. Some people actually traded in Google’s search engine for SearchMash, were apparently quite pleased with the experience and are now sad to see it go.

The service wasn’t meant to attract a mass of users, but rather for Google to play around with meta-search features (results for web, images, video and Wikipedia were blended together), third-party integration (it used Snap for previewing landing pages of outside links), user interface experiments (like ‘infinite scroll’ that allowed you to view as many search results on the same page) and technologies (it had an Ajax and Flash / Flex version).

There’s something inherently strange about Google not having used SearchMash as a playground for trying out the SearchWiki features, and even more so that they decided to quietly kill it while at the same launching the latter.

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