Wednesday, October 27, 2004
(via John Battelle's SearchBlog, by way of Search Engine Watch):
Gary Price apparently stumbled on an MSN Search interface before it was fit for human consumption.
Apparently (and he has the screen shots to prove it), this search engine will allow users to alter the rankings by tweaking the weighting of different factors.
Of late, Rich Skrenta has been nice enough to say that I thought of this. Obviously, I'm not the only one who has.
In short, then, this is the "bake your own pie" concept of search -- the notion of putting the user in the same cockpit as a search engine engineer with regard to determining the weighting of factors which affect rankings. In the screen shots captured by Gary, only three weighting factors could be adjusted: the importance of page freshness; popularity (how accurate this might be is in question for now, and there are privacy issues to consider); exact match vs. fuzzy match.
The long-term significance is that we would transcend the concept of "the" index's ranking algorithm. There might be tens of thousands of "algorithms" in force depending on users' settings. Among other things, this would keep spammers and optimizers off balance, and improve the user experience.
Lest we think that users don't like to twiddle dials, how many audiophiles thought it was cool to play with the equalizer on their $89 Sony boom box in the '80's? Even your average tone-deaf jerk liked to twiddle the dials.
To be honest, I thought this kind of functionality was going to take years to be released. If three dimensions are user-tweakable, is it far off before power users are given the option to tune their search on fifty or a hundred different dimensions?
Down the road, users could also save different "suites" of weightings depending on what kind of search they were performing. Search engines could offer a dozen or two "pre-sets" with cute names. Each would be like a different search engine within the search engine.
If MSN Search really does roll this out soon, it will vault to the top of my list of favorite search engines. And I'm not kidding.
The question is, will MSN users get it?
An alternative question: are they just messing with us?
Related Traffick article: Google's Personalization Merely a Taste of Things to Come
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