FUTURES spoke with Jordi Ribas, head of the new Microsoft Search Technology Center.
Microsoft Search Technology Center
IMPROVING THE EUROPEAN SEARCH EXPERIENCE
Rosa Jiménez Cano
Which overall trends do you aim to address?
The trends in search are manifold: the Internet content to be searched is moving from purely text to complex content and media such as videos, photos, and music. Links in the Web are becoming more and more volatile as data is becoming more dynamic and is updated rapidly. Also, queries themselves are becoming more complex and fuzzy. The semantics and context of queries differ a lot, for example based on culture; and geography queries are coming in from many different devices with results needing to be visualised on different user interfaces and displays. Search engines have to cope with all of this.
As a result, we think that search is still in its infancy and that there is far more still to be done. Many queries go unanswered or the results are not relevant. On 40 percent of their searches users report low satisfaction and 25 percent of searches end with the user clicking the back button. Users search in different ways and with very different intentions. Today's search engines often struggle to truly understand the context and intent behind a user's query and currently present a similar results experience whatever the user was trying to discover.
The investment in the European Search Technology Center aims to address these problems, building a more relevant search experience for European consumers.
Why do you plan for dedicated technology development in Europe?
People in every country want a fast and effective search experience that gives them far more than a few blue lines with links. The European STC will enable Microsoft to apply local expertise in order to advance search technology and to create a highly locally relevant, intelligent and interactive search experience.
Microsoft already invests a lot in creating local adaptations of technologies - the Development Center in Ireland developing local Windows & Office features, the Development Center in Serbia developing local and domainspecific handwriting recognition, the Language Development Center in Portugal developing local language support, and the Development Center Copenhagen developing local design and user interfaces. Microsoft also engages very actively in European activities to further the state-of-the art of enterprise search technologies – the subsidiary FAST Search & Transfer is leading the FP6 project PHAROS with other European partners and is participating in the RUSHES and CHORUS project.
What is the Search Technology Center?
The Center will have three centres of excellence, in London, Paris and Munich, and will drive the consumer search product forward for European users focusing on increased relevance and richer vertical experiences.
We will be incubating new ideas together with Microsoft Research, as well as collaborating on search technologies with partners and leveraging local expertise. Our investment in the Search Technology Center complements the enterprise search technology of our subsidiary FAST Search & Transfer in Norway as well as the Ciao. com technology which we acquired recently in Germany.
We are very much looking forward to this endeavour and believe that the Search Technology Center will bring a significant benefit to European consumers, our advertising customers and in turn to our company as well.