While we still wait for proven online semantic search to emerge, Microsoft unveiled what could be a notable improvement to the current search environment. Last week a paper was released that introduced BrowseRank, a new method for determining Web page importance based on user behavior.
This method is in contrast to Google’s PageRank, which utilizes complex algorithms that look at the number and rank of sites that link to any given page to determine its search value. This method has driven Google to its current dominant status in search, but it can be gamed by link farms and other search engine optimization methods – impressively spawning the SEO industry.
BrowseRank measures the time users spend on pages and sites to calculate their search importance. This is even more brilliant than utilizing actual total and unique visitors to sites through intranet provider statistics.
I am encouraged and look forward to continued innovation in online search. Google has gone stale with a lack of competition and there is good reason to believe Microsoft’s plan to reinvent itself in the online world starts with reinventing how we use the internet – both through search and cloud computing. Microsoft is entering both areas a bit late, but its failed bid to purchase Yahoo may prove the internal motivational push it needed to start change within instead of the slow monolithic growth method of acquisition. No one can compete with Google within the confines of today’s current search arena, but unlike the numerous startups out there, Microsoft has the size and resolve to compete and move the search game to its next iteration. I suspect we will see a very different search environment before April of next year that will include BrowseRank, mobile search, CPA and maybe even semantic.