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Windows Live Local Better, But Still Not There

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Windows Live Local (WLL) came out of beta today along with Live.com and Live Search. Chris Sherman covered the full upgrade and release in his Search Day article. This post will focus on WLL specifically.

Derrick Connell, Microsoft's search business general manager, is quoted as saying that 15% to 20% of search queries are local. (While this estimate may be slighly low, it would mean somewhere between 975 million and 1.3 billion U.S. search queries per month (across all engines) had a local intent. This shows what's at stake in having a good user experience and being able to monetize those queries.

WLL's primary attraction remains its spectacular "Birdseye" aerial photography, which hasn't been duplicated by its competitors. In this release there's about 30% more Birdseye coverage in the US, with an ongoing effort to cover most population centers in the US, UK and EU in the near term.

The WLL team has also beefed up the "details" page for individual businesses with Web search results. Formerly there was only basic contact information and a map. Beyond this, since the last time I wrote about WLL, there haven't been any significant upgrades. Here are the three most recent posts about Live Local and its features:

The aerial photography is great for pinpointing on precisely which corner the W Hotel is located in San Francisco. The Scratch Pad and Collections are very nice (and unique) ways to save and share map data. And the layered results are also useful. Yet there are other areas where Live Local could improve:

  • Offer reviews and other features to help users make decisions. (Among the big three Yahoo! is the most helpful here, allowing users to sort/refine by rating, location or other criteria.)

  • Do more passive disambiguation so that users don't have to clarify otherwise self-evident locations (e.g., "SF, CA" means "San Francisco")

  • Be able to handle non-traditional searches such as "great bars in New York." Windows Live Search does a much better job on this query than WLL
Having said all that, WLL has come a great distance in its short life and we expect Microsoft to continue to make investments to make the product and the user experience better as a integral "vertical" within Live Search.


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