There is a new secret search stealth project going on in San Jose?
At the end of the day, we have crack teams in Redmond, SV and China. Lots of other locations and we’re working hard on lots of innovation. When it becomes a reality you’ll hear about it. We’re sure proud of our team in SV.
Is the team charged with doing something different than Windows Live?
No, they’re just part of the team. They’re definitely in the pipeline of all the research and development we have going on.
Now you’ve been on the new job for like a month and a half, have there been any surprises? What are your impressions?
The last time I was directing on the advertising side was when I working on Link Exchange. I’m still learning, but what’s struck me the most is that I feel like we’re the youngest in the business. There’s a lot of fire and desire on our team to contribute. It’s great to be on the team. I’m excited to back in the space, feeling young, and taking some risks and making some innovations.
The logic of brining the ad side and the search side is pretty self-evident. The fact that we have a full page that has to be relevant to our users,
What do you see as the biggest challenge you have to deal with in the core search as opposed to the core ad side?
When you’re 10% share in the US. The challenge is how do you grow the share so our advertisers are getting more share. To get those searchers though, you need to have the good search results.
I would love to have 50% of Google’s share. To get there we have to crack the code of engagement. There are lots of users, but the thing we really want to do is crack the code of once we get the users trying us, we want to keep them. The MSN audience is definitely a portal audience. They come to MSN looking for a portal experience.
We’ve done a great job integrating Live with Messenger and Outlook.
The other thing we’ve got the exploit is the Live Search in Microsoft.com. Overall, being really able to get the contextual search all around the Microsoft network is really job #1
How do you see the differentiation between MSN, Google and Yahoo?
One of the things I like to think about is, to be in the search game it takes a lot to continuously innovate. If you look at our platform, our algorithms, etc, I feel that we’ve finally reached a level of maturity where we can compete with the best of the best.
There is a lot of innovation in core infrastructure that I feel good about. So next, how do we differentiate? We need to recognize that there is a whole page beyond the ten links. We have answers, related searches… beyond full page relevance is doing stuff with new types of content… images, scratch pad… We quickly responded to Google’s introduction of the face technology on Google Images.
We have now over 120 cities in our 3D web. It’s great for local navigation, and as a new advertising platform. Mobile is a pretty rich app. There’s a variety of these both horizontal and vertical innovations along with our investment in core infrastructure improvements.
Do you think the vertical is going to be the stronger place that pulls ppl in?
When you look at our 10% share, we’re going to try very hard in some of our verticals to improve that. I don’t think we’re in the search game to just get our “fair share”.
We got AdCenter out last year. We’ve been out on the market for about a year. The thing we want to focus on is our quality and the usability of it. Our last update really addressed those last two core issues. Users can do bulk campaign management, etc. A lot of emphasis on basic usability. Beyond that, we’ve started doing contextual content network ads. We’re slowly growing the number of advertisers on it. The CTRs are basically the same as search right now. The traffic that our advertisers expect has been there.
Beyond that, if you go to AdLabs.Microsoft.com you’ll see a lot of the cool stuff we’re working on. Keyword forecasting, and other tools we’re developing for the SEM people.
Another thing we want to do is support new ad types. We’ll be setting the pace on how to innovate and work with the customers to develop new products and ad types.
How can you own an interactive agency and run a search engine?
We intend to make no changes to that arrangement. In some ways, Aquantiv has cracked the code on retaining the separation between the technology and agency, so we’ll be following that pattern and plan to keep both.
The difference is that while Aquantiv owned the tools, they didn’t own the media too. But it’s not the same situation. It’s like the NYTs is running its own PR Company.
It all comes down to what are the policies that govern the functioning of AA? We fully intend to make sure that AA has the flexibility to service their clients in a neutral way. We won’t break the core AA business. Their clients can be assured that they’ll have all the right policies to protect the customer’s interests.
How are you and Steve interacting?
Steve owns the P&L and runs the business. I really have the responsibility to run some of the engineering that runs the P&L that Steve owns. We have a simplicity in how we operate, and it’s been very refreshing to me. In the end of the day, he runs the business; I run some of the aspects of the engineering.
You’ve talked about MSN and Windows Live. Any more changes on that front?
Overall, at the end of the day, MSN is our portal and that’s where most of our traffic and customer engagement is. As far as our destiny in where we make progress with search depends on MSN. We want to use MSN as a brand, as well as a destination.
How do you prepare yourself to “Make Search Better”?
As you change from one area to another… the beauty of MS is that I’ve worked in every part of our business… so there is always the thrill of being in a new domain. I was petrified last night and got very little sleep. I’m sure come Q&A time all my fears will come true. But nevertheless, the best way to energize yourself is to jump into something new. In the morning when I’m running I listen to a data mining class. It’s great to meet a new set of people and learn what they know. We have very, very smart and capable folks, and my job is to be able to take on friction and enable them to do their best work.
AARF client – I’ve been using MSN Live Search for the last 18 months. What are your next aims for the next year and where do you see it going?
Answer -- On the search side we want to be able to show some innovation that let’s us improve engagement. How do we take the searchers that are already using MSN Live search and have them use it more. We want to be very scientific and data driven about doing that. All of our work in the verticals will be to increase engagement. You’ll see us do a lot more experimentation in MSN. We’ll do a lot more of these contextual search innovations, especially with Hotmail, Office, and non MSN Live properties. That’s kind of where I see us going.
Larry, Seattle 24x7 – You’ve offered your corporate clients a financial incentive to use MSN Search, will that ever be offered to regular users like in the form of discounts on Vista, etc. Also, what happened to Amazon A9’s street view?
Answer – As to the first one, it’s a good idea. I’ll take it back to my colleagues and see what they say. As to the second, we have street level navigation, especially in Seattle and one other city. We believe it’s a fairly unique property and plan to continue developing it.
(Danny asks about other SE’s versions and privacy issues)
Answer -- Any time you have a situation with user privacy, you put the control of the amount of privacy in the control of the user and let them set the level of exposure.
Danny -- Do you see a way to try to do control over the street level views before the users notify you they want it taken down?
Answer -- This is one of my nightmares coming true At the end of the day, if the benefit of having the imagery out there outweighs the privacy concerns, then the technology will win out. If it doesn’t, there will be some level of balancing.
Jay, DomainTools.com – Microsoft’s take on Google Universal Search
Answer – We’ve introduced Answers, News, Stocks, etc. I think it’s the same direction Google is going with Universal Search. If you look at the SERP real estate right now, there is a lot more than just the 10 blue links. Directionally, I believe in the direction we’re going in.
Jay, DomainTools.com – Are you guys committed to being compatible with FF?
Answer – Good piece of feedback. We only have 10% of the share, and we definitely want to be where our audience is so we can increase that. There are a lot of areas that we need to ensure we get adequate users.
Danny asks how FF users (all hands)… how many IE users? (no hands)
Danny – I’d almost like to see you “forget” you have IE and develop a product that works independent of it.
Question – To influence ppl to spend more money on the ads on AdCenter, do you think maybe you’d give them a reward via higher natural rankings?
Answer – We’d like to be able to innovate to get the search traffic, and the end user is voting, so we have to make sure we’re providing the highest quality search results.
Question – What do I tell my clients when they ask why they should use Live or MSN?
Answer – Go back to all the things I said about differentiation. We have an image search, a 3D search, and a product search that I believe are all differentiated. There are already 55 million searchers who are using MSN or Live each month. That is the kind of reason why you want to be in multiple SEs and marketing to all the searchers and getting that cross channel exposure.
Danny – Is there anything particularly fascinating you’ve discovered since you’ve come back into search?
Answer – The thing that is the most fascinating for me getting back into the space is the continuous nature of how things improve. From an engineering or computer science perspective, the frequency at which we release new stuff. It’s just all very invigorating for me and I hope to be in this space for awhile.