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Windows Live Academic Search: The Details
Posted On April 17, 2006
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Overall, however, Acharya says that the arrival of Windows Live Search will have "no specific impact on Google Scholar. There are large problems for all of us to solve. They don't make them easier or harder. We have a goal to achieve and we will continue to strive to achieve it."

Sharon Mombru, senior product manager of Scirus at Elsevier, thought it is "a good thing to have a new entrant into the scientific search space. It raises the bar for everyone. It will make for more robust searching [that is] more competitive." She considers that "different tools will work with different users. Ours are more optimized for scientific content. Some may be more tailored to a specific set of areas [while] others [are] more general."

Scirus has particular strength in identifying reliable sci-tech Web sources with up to 250 million pages. It also covers published material from Elsevier and a half-dozen other publishers. However, the growth area in Elsevier for full-text coverage of multiple publishers lies more in Scopus, the subscription service, than in Scirus. Scopus competes with Thomson ISI's Web of Science. If and when Windows Live Academic Search adds more publishers, more subject areas, and citation searching, some librarians might consider it before licensing Scopus or even Web of Science. Laura Felter, however, points out that even "outside of content, the Scirus interface contains controlled terms and, for me, this has been a tremendous advantage. The other is their impressive advanced search limiters."

When joined together, Windows Live Academic Search, Google Scholar, and Scirus could pose a general threat to fee-based scholarly abstracting and indexing (A&I) services. With full-text indexing of journal articles and free access to abstracts combined with powerful and now handsome interfaces, the megabases of the past may no longer seem necessary. Jill O'Neill, director of planning and communications for the A&I trade organization, NFAIS, defended her members' continued value:

Microsoft and Google are developing some interesting retrieval tools, but there are drawbacks to the one-size-fits-all approach that they've adopted. In the context of high-level research, the reality is that a subject-specific indexing approach applied to editorially-selected collections of content will frequently better serve the need of the user. Pattern matching algorithms can't be relied upon to turn up the relevant content that exists but which may not use precisely the same terminology. Convenience and ease of use shouldn't necessarily supersede the concerns of specificity and precision, most particularly in the realm of scholarship and research.

Amy Brand of CrossRef confirmed: "The librarians we've spoken with don't see general search as an alternative to specialized, expertly categorized subject portals. Interestingly though, broad academic search tools may be making them question the value and purpose of their own OPACs when their users can find electronic resources more easily through general search." Another vulnerable class of vendors?

So What?

I asked Tiedt a very blunt question: "When is Microsoft going to stop playing ‘catch-up' with Google?" She pointed out the strides Microsoft has already made in some areas, e.g., Windows Live mapping compared to Google Earth and their macros. However, she pointed out that Microsoft came into building Web search engines later than Google. They have had to build ad-serving technology, their own algorithms, and their own infrastructure. "Now that we have our platform," said Tiedt, "you will see new innovations built on top of it. Besides Windows Live, you will also see enterprise search integration, a huge opportunity, and the academic world is filled with opportunities." Overall, Microsoft's goal, according to Thiru, is to build "the largest collection of material by aggressively pursuing new publishers, though we are aware there are maximum speed limits."

Maybe not as many as Thiru thinks. Wiley's Van Dyck commented: "We want our content indexed by as many search services as possible, to enable users to find any content they want. Sometimes [it's] ours. It's a big world. There is plenty of room for multiple search engines. The prospects are good. Microsoft knows what [it's] doing and [it] seem[s] committed. [It] will have hurdles to overcome, but it's do-able. We're confident that [Microsoft] will provide additional services for users."

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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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