Wolfram Alpha Fail Is Appropriately Nerdy

via Gizmodo by Dan Nosowitz on 5/16/09


Wolfram Alpha, the dorktastic computational search engine, got off to a bit of a rocky start when it launched last night. At least its first fail message had the foresight to include a HAL reference.

As it’s an alpha, we’re not too bothered that it’s run into some overload problems. Hey, at least people are using it, right? But be warned, Wolfie: A pithy error message can only charm us for so long.

[via Twitter]

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Google launches search plugin for Windows Mobile

via Download Squad by Brad Linder on 3/20/08

Google Today plugin

Google is taking steps to speed up the mobile version of its search engine. And while the company’s at it, it’s released a Today Screen plugin for Windows Mobile users. The plugin essentially lets you start a search from your home screen without even bothering to open up your web browser first. Of course, as you can see in our screenshot, Microsoft has been bundling a Windows Live Search plugin with Windows Mobile for a while, but we found that Google returned our search results much faster than Windows Live.

Google already has similar plugins for Symbian and BlackBerry devices.

You can install the new plugin by navigating to mobile.google.com on a Windows Mobile web browser and clicking the “Search (Download)” link.

[via jkOnTheRun]

Google dumbs down Images results

Google Images update
Google has changed the interface of Google Images, and not necessarily for the better. While the old results display for Google Images searches showed a thumbnail of each image along with the host’s domain name, the image’s dimensions, and a short description (taken from the image’s context on the site). Now Google Images only shows the short description unless you move your mouse over one of the thumbnails. For me, this makes the service significantly less intuitive. If I’m looking for, say, a logo that’s a certain size, I want to be able to see each image’s dimensions at a glance, but with the new interface I have to roll my mouse over each and every one until I find one that’s the right size. Similarly, being able to see the hosts of all of the images was handy, especially if you noticed that many of them are served by the same host. But now it’s like a puzzle, moving your mouse around until you find what you’re looking for.

I’m not sure if this new interface is showing up for all users, as Google is in the habit of testing new interfaces on a small cross section of users, but either way I hope this is an interface change they reconsider. What do you think of the update?

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Wikipedia founder turns to search

Wales looks to fix ‘broken’ Internet search offerings

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is developing a wiki-based search engine to compete with existing commercial search engines such as Google.

He announced plans to develop the search engine, to be named “Wikiasari,” or “Wikia,” for short, in a posting on the Wikia website.

Wales said that current search engine technology, using complex algorithms to complete searches, is “broken.”

He went on to say: “It is broken for the same reason that proprietary software is always broken: lack of freedom, lack of community, lack of accountability (and) lack of transparency. Here, we will change all that.”

Wales promotes Wikia as “a new kind of search engine, which relies on human intelligence to do what algorithms cannot.” He invited members of the Wiki community to help design the Wikia search engine, which he described as “an open-source alternative for Web search.”

He cited open source search projects as Nutch and Lucene as related efforts that can help in the development of Wikia.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which manages Wikipedia.com, emphasised that the search engine project was not associated with the foundation.

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Why MSN (Live) Search is losing share: the blog conversation

An interesting discussion is shaping up across a number of blogs, all relating to Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Watch posting a number of graphs showing MSN (Live) Search to be losing market share to Google. Sullivan posts this graph showing the drop in market share over the last year:

A number of bloggers chimed in with their takes, including Greg Linden of Findory and Nathan Weinberg of Inside Microsoft (who can’t resist Office 2007izing the chart):

Weinberg goes on to offer his thoughts on why Live Search is losing share:

Theories:

  • Change is bad: Users don’t like two redesigns in two years, and the unfamiliarity is sending them away.
  • Windows Live Search looks cheap: The old MSN search looked cheap. It was too white, too sparse. The layout and colors didn’t have the right “feel”, seeming like a low rent search engine, rather than a serious competitor to Google. While Google shares many of the same properties, users know it is the search leader, and are willing to overlook its design. MSN doesn’t get the same pass. While the newer MSN Search and now Live.com improved the look and feel, they retain some sort of cheapness. Personally, I think its the white and blue. Something dramatic and dynamic to make the page more exciting. Ask.com has it (the red bar) Yahoo has some of it (the red Yahoo logo, plus they rip off Google well). Perhaps Widncows Live needs a new color on the page, or an animated element. Anything to break it up. A suggestion: Animate the flair on page load.
  • Lack of marketing: Most people don’t know Windows Live Search exists. Microsoft is counting on (a) community evangelism (and besides myself and some other bloggers, I’m not sure there is much of that), as well as (b) MSN and Internet Explorer users discovering the search engine in random use. For god sakes, buy some good commercials, ones people can’t ignore, something undeniably cool and memorable. Also: Say Live.com in your ads, leave out Microsoft, and I guarantee they become more effective.
  • Beta feel: Regardless of how popular Gmail invites used to be, the average user hates betas, and will not use products that appear under construction. Windows Live has so many products that don’t work, don’t work all the time, are behind invite-only walls, or have a beta tag, that users instinctively say “I’ll wait for when its done”. Focus on core products (Live.com, search, image search, news search, Live Mail) and demand a full release by the day Windows Vista hits retail. If you have to, stop designing new features and stabilize the damn code. I don’t care how good the product will be, because your users are leaving now.

..and goes on to say that he has a “geek crush” on Windows Live and wants them to win.

Then Eric Selberg of Microsoft and Live Search chimed in with two posts, where he comments: “Well, what did anyone really expect?” and continues on to provide a very realistic summary of what Microsoft is in for to try and compete in Search. In a comment on Linden’s post, Selberg goes into more detail about the complexity of competing in Search:

“Now… to be fair and critical… let’s say Microsoft did invest a few more billion into search. It’s not clear hiring could have happened much faster, nor would we have wanted it as bringing on that many new people is a recipe for disaster. But certainly, the hardware infrastructure could have been built out such that it’d be much closer now (you’ll notice we’ve been rather quiet about the size of the index since the Google / Yahoo 20 billion index scuffle a year and a half ago). That’s happening, and I suspect in a year or two the size of one’s data centers won’t be as big a competitive advantage as it is now. But it’s a fair point.
I think the real question is whether we’re talking about a matter of 1-2 years vs 4-5 years. If we’re arguing about 1-2 years, well, OK, fine, you win. We could have done a bit better. But as I told Steve Hanks the other week, if I knew everything I knew at the end of my PhD as I did when I started, it would have taken me a lot less than the 6 years it did. But of course, that’s the point of it all!”

Very interesting to have Selberg chime in on the discussion – this is the kind of blogging we have been missing – maybe it’s not dead after all!

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