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Windows Live Academic Search: The Details
Posted On April 17, 2006
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Microsoft worked with CiteSeer ( in developing some of its features, e.g., author live links, and in tapping the Web-based content in which CiteSeer specializes, such as computer sciences. Thomson Scientific's Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) also worked with CiteSeer in developing its Web Citation Index. However, Windows Live Academic Search does not offer forward or reverse citation indexing yet, as CiteSeer does. It does not automatically extract footnotes, though they may appear in the course of searching the full text. Again, this much-desired feature is on the planning boards, according to Thiru. Part of the problem involves standardizing author metadata (first name, last name, initials, punctuation, etc.), an area they are still working on, according to Thiru.

Laura Felter, author of The Better Mousetrap column for Searcher, had problems accessing the service using a Mac. Safari, Netscape, and an earlier version of Internet Explorer (IE5.2, not IE6.0) browsers could not reach the service effectively. Firefox on a PC worked, but not with Linux. Since she had no trouble reaching Google Scholar or Scirus on all of the above, Felter advised Microsoft, "We need to know the browser requirements for this thing."

Library Accommodations

Right from the beginning, Microsoft has appealed to librarians with a page addressing their concerns and appealing for their assistance. Jill Grogg, electronic resources librarian at the University of Alabama Libraries, was "impressed and extraordinarily pleased that the initial release addressed OpenURL issues immediately." Grogg recalled that it took Google Scholar 4 to 5 months to support the linking and pointed out that Scirus still had not added it. Of course, said Grogg, "Microsoft had the benefit of watching Google Scholar's experience, but they still learned from it." She also commented on Microsoft's using Open Archive for harvesting metadata: "It's nice to see library-born standards being embraced by giants like Microsoft and Google."

The linking options to which Grogg refers include full linking to the library OpenURL resolvers that enable library patrons to gain authenticated access to full-text of digitized journals to which the library subscribes. The current implementation supports publisher Web sites automatically "sniffing' searcher access status. Link resolver companies, such as Ex Libris, Serials Solutions, etc., provide them with the information they need to detect the institution of the searcher and link to the institution's link resolver. Interested libraries should contact their link resolver vendors or Microsoft ( In the next beta, Microsoft plans to allow users to choose their affiliation from a list of institutions. This kind of information might appear in the "Preferences" page it plans to add to the service. Libraries do not have to reveal their holdings information, as some do with Google Scholar. Microsoft will work with "homegrown link resolver systems" or even with libraries that have no link resolver systems.

Publishers handle the authentication process, not Microsoft. However, identifying institutions' members by IP addresses can automatically associate users with their institutions. When Grogg did some test searches on Windows Live Academic Search and drifted into the general search areas, she was somewhat alarmed to find them identifying her town and state. In my test searches, they found the megalopolis up the road—or maybe my county (same name). However, Microsoft promises not to share IP information with any third parties and, considering the prevalence of Windows products, Microsoft probably knows where we all are already.

OCLC announced that it was providing WorldCat metadata on library holdings to Windows Live Academic Search, "similar to its involvement in projects with other popular search engines and services." Chip Nilges, vice president, OCLC New Services, said: "The presence of WorldCat records in the Live Academic Search service ensures that high-quality information in libraries is included in Web search results." However, I could not find OCLC Open WorldCat listings in the service as yet. Is there something else for phase two?

Publisher Relationships

Microsoft makes it very clear that it prefers to work with publishers through CrossRef. This simplifies the burden of adding content by standardizing both content and metadata transferred and the terms and conditions. According to Ed Pentz, executive director of CrossRef, "The long-term goal is to open participation in the service to all CrossRef member publishers on standard terms and conditions."

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Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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