Why Microsoft BrowseRank Will Fail Too
CNET has posted an article on Microsoft’s newest attempt to challenge Google for more of the search share market. Microsoft will be launching a new toolbar called BrowseRank. If you don’t want to read the whole article, here the gist of it:
Microsoft likes the results BrowseRank, which assigning Web page priority based on how people actually use the site. (Credit: Microsoft Research A Asia)
Essentially, the researchers tested out a system that replaces PageRanks’ link graph–a mathematical model of the hyperlinked connections of the Internet–with what they call a user browsing graph that ranks Web pages by people’s behavior.
“The more visits of the page made by the users and the longer time periods spent by the users on the page, the more likely the page is important. We can leverage hundreds of millions of users’ implicit voting on page importance”
The key takeaway here is that Microsoft, like Nielsen, wants to change the paradigm of how a page should be considered relevant from web pages link to your site and the importance of those linking pages to how much time a user spends on a page.
Granted PageRank is not perfect, but measuring a site’s importance and relevance by the time a user spends on it, is a worse idea. All that will really do is encourage the web community to regress back to 1995. We’ll all build sites so complex and convoluted that it will take every single user 10 minutes to find what they want. And by BrowseRank standard, all my sites will be excellent because users spend tons of time wandering around on them.
And, I can see Microsoft’s point with measuring TOS (time on site), it must mean that my site has compelling content and information. But, as you’ll see below, Plurker beagooddad made some great points:
While I couldn’t find any exact numbers on how many users actually use Live Search, it’s safe to say it’s considerably less than Google (based on current market share of search traffic). And, with lower population data, how valid will these results be? While I’m sure TOS won’t be the ONLY factor MS considers, having that piece as the cornerstone of your algorithm seems to completely invalidate BrowseRank for me.
Once again, Microsoft is a “Johnny-come-lately” in the area of web innovation. And, this effort, while valiant, is doomed to fail as all the rest of the MS search endeavors have. And, we know that if Yahoo ever builds a web page relevance toolbar, it’ll be nearly as solid as Google’s and really offer some competition. But, we’ll have to wait and see how the community, and the general populous, takes to the new BrowseRank Toolbar.