Must read: 'Tough Love For Microsoft Search'

Wed 31 December 2008 09:09, Bas van den Beld

Must read: 'Tough Love For Microsoft Search'

The internet is full of great articles. It’s impossible to read every single one of them. Even articles on the subject of search are numerous. Just take a look at Sphinn and techmeme and daily you will find tens of articles only in English. And that doesn’t include all those articles on blogs worldwide in all different languages.

Here at Searchcowboys we like to point you to the most interesting articles around. Once in a while we will therefore give you a ‘must read’ tip. An article you just cannot miss. And just before the end of the year we were treated to an article which could be one of the most interesting articles this year.

On Searchengineland Danny Sullivan, probably the person with the biggest reputation in the search-industry, wrote an extensive article in which he takes a big shot at Microsoft. An absolute must read for those interested in search.

The story is the third of a trilogy on where the major search engines are heading. Earlier in the year he wrote 'Yahoo The Failure: Myth Versus Reality' and 'The Google Hive Mind'.


In the article Sullivan points its finger at the management of Microsoft. The reason why Microsoft is not getting there in search is not that they don’t have a good enough product or that those working in the search-department aren’t dedicated. It’s the top management, aka Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates.

As an example Sullivan explains how he has been trying to get one of the ‘big guys’ at Microsoft to attend one of his conferences. All the other major players (Yang of Yahoo, Brin and Schmidt of Google) have been there, but not Microsoft. And it’s not as if they haven’t been asked. This year only Sullivan asked three times.

Appearing in a conference really can help a search engine gain the trust from its users and, more importantly, from those informing and therefore advising the potential customers.
The not showing up at conferences is a big issue for Sullivan and one of the reasons he thinks Microsoft is not ‘into search’. But in the article he points out more.

He points out that although Google is the biggest cash-machine around these days they originally weren’t in it for the money. And Microsoft is. Sullivan points at this quote made by Ballmer in the Wall Street Journal:

The fundamental basis for doing the search deal with Yahoo has to do with critical mass in the advertising marketplace. It doesn’t have to do with technology, or any of these other things, it really is a market phenomenon. Together we would have more advertisers….which means we’d have more relevant ads on our page. We’d have higher monetization levels possible in front of us because there would be more people bidding on more key words. Most importantly, Google would have perhaps a real credible competitor sooner.

He then points at some quotes made by Gates who point in the same direction.
In the (very long) article Sullivan points out more about Microsoft. Some highlights:

  • Microsoft looks at search as if it were software
  • Microsoft wants all its products to work together so to use one you need another one, which is not very user-friendly
  • Microsoft doesn’t have a proper name for its search products, the name changes from “MSN” to “Live” and back.
  • Microsoft should work on word to mouth instead of doing all the commercials
  • Microsoft is not consistent in its products or executives

Sullivan concludes with a call to Microsoft to show their ‘fighting spirit’ in the “war of the search engines”. With his rant he tries to wake up Microsoft and is hoping for an actual competitor for Google. And he’s right about that.

Off course you can question some of the points made in the article. How important is it really for Microsoft to show up at one of the SMX-search conferences? We will probably never know. And when Sullivan talks about the products which are tied together one could say that Google is on its way of doing the same thing, though with a different approach. But concluding we can only say that Sullivan hits the right buttons when it comes to this article. It’s a must read for all those interested in search. Let’s hope also for the executives at Microsoft.

Comments (44)


  • It indeed is a good article which points out how Microsoft can succeed in Search.

    I believe they have the ability to do that, but commitment from the highest level is needed to succeed in the Search space.

    Za 3 jan 2009, 19:02

  • Thanks for pointing out this must read article Bas - enjoyed it after reading it again today

    Wo 14 jan 2009, 11:13

  • Any time Jorg!

    Wo 14 jan 2009, 11:14

  • It seems to me Danny uses the 'conference argument' only as a hands-on example he witnessed personally, to illustrate his point.

    The point being that Microsofts' management sees search as something that could do a lot for microsoft (read: $$$), while Google sees search as something they do for its users (and of course make money along). That is what we read in - indeed very interesting article (!).

    I think that what Danny describes is an example of a company (read: management of company) that simply doesn't 'get' it. Doesn't get that internet is user-centered, doesn't get that word-of-mouth is the way to promote your stuff, and doesn't get that we've entered another way of doing business in the 21st century...

    Maybe Ballmer & co should read books like Wikinomics, Cluetrain etc.

    I don't really have a point with this comment, just that I enjoyed the article :)

    Zo 18 jan 2009, 14:35

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