Microsoft applies for search patents

November 6, 2006

Interesting news on Slashdot this morning that Microsoft has applied for a bunch of new patents in the U.S. relating to search engine technology. This is nothing new as the major search players have been patenting their technologies for years.

This latest bunch of patents includes ones related to improving search result ranking methods and classification of documents. Both good things if they advance Live search as I’ve never been too impressed with with Microsofts methods of ranking results.

The really interesting patents though are the ones related to linking related queries, optimizing search, identifying results that are spam, and using a Bayesian classifier to measure feedback from the user!

Linking related queries is something that no engine has done well yet, it would be really useful to get recommendations for other queries to try if your search ends up fruitless. Identifying spam results sounds promising too, the engines really need to find a way to filter out the abundance of irrelevant, spam type sites (especially those created by less than honest affiliates). Google has been slowly lowering the rankings of sites that solely offer lists of affiliate links so it looks like Microsoft will be doing similar.

Measuring feedback from the user using Bayesian technology is extremely interesting! Having a way to allow users to rate results and actually feed that back into the ranking system would be an extremely powerful addition to any search engine. Of course, it may also be open to people trying to manipulate results if it wasn’t implemented properly.

It all sounds really promising though! I’d love to see some advances in the search market, it’s about time they started to look at ways to improve the results for us users and it really looks like Microsoft are taking it seriously. It’s great for the SEO’s as well, if the spam filtering works then search engine optimisation will become even more crucial!

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