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Wednesday, 04 March 2009 12:01

Can Microsoft's Kumo take on Google's Sumo

Once again one of Microsoft's worst kept secrets has been leaked, this time a new search engine called Kumo, that is supposed to especially good at searching for images. Is Kumo the saviour that Microsoft has been waiting for to take on Google's 800 pound sumo or is it just a warmed up version of Live Search?

Despite the hype about its visual searching capabilities, looking at the few available "leaked" screenshots, Kumo does not appear to be all that different from other search engines. The search results generate context sensitive ads in exactly the same way as Google does and, if the screen shots are accurate, the ads even appear in the same positions.

It is true, though, that Kumo search results seem better organised than Google's haphazard style. The search examples used in the leaked Microsoft screenshots, country singer Taylor Swift and the 2009 Audi S8 motor car, provide an insight into the type of search organisation Microsoft has in mind.

The Kumo Taylor Swift search, for example, shows the results categorised under headings such as Images, Web (her website url, Wikipedia page et al), Songs, Albums, Videos and so on. Likewise, the Audi S8 search puts up an image of the car and links to details about it in the top result, this is followed the Web category of search results (urls to the Audi Wikipedia page, various Audi websites around the world et al) and categories of results pertaining to parts, images, videos, accessories, used Audi sites and so on.

By comparison typing Taylor Swift into Google brings up much of the same information, including images, Wikipedia page and so but it's all jumbled up. So in a sense, what Kumo seems to be trying to achieve is to organise search results into a meaningful format that makes them more readily accessible to users. In other words, Kumo tries to make it easier for users to search the search results.

All of this is nothing new. A search engine called Clusty has been clustering search engine results for the past five years. In fact, the clustering of its search results for Taylor Swift seem better than those of the Kumo screen shot. Aside from images and so on, it clusters results under concert tickets, fansites, downloads and more.

The goss about Kumo, however, is that it may have visual search or so-called semantic search capabilities - using images to find other images and so on. So if you wished to find a shot of Jack Nicholson together with say Kate Hudson (if such an image exists) - you could presumably tag images of both people to find a pic of both together.

From the available leaked screen shots on Kara Swisher's blog, however, there is no evidence of this that I can see. Kumo just looks like another search engine with clustering capabilities.

Then again where there's smoke there's usually fire.



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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.




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