Is Microsoft Unintrusively Adding Search History To Its Algorithm?

Harry Shum, Microsoft VP of Search Product Development, is presenting a keynote address at the Fourth ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining in Hong Kong Friday, where he will discuss the role of personal search history as a factor in search results, the conference site reported.

Shum will explain the changes being made at Bing and how the engine is using a “Dialog Model that consists of three building blocks: an indexing system that comprehensively collects information from the web and systematically harvests knowledge, an intent model that statistically infers user intent and predicts next action, and an interaction model that elicits user intent through mathematically optimized presentations of web information and domain knowledge that matches user needs.”

Microsoft is presenting two papers at the event. Since searching to find sites they’ve been to before is a frequent query, one paper discusses an algorithm that can determine when someone is using a search engine for this purpose. The algorithm, developed by Microsoft researchers Jaime Teevan, Daniel J. Liebling and Gayathri Ravichandran Geetha and presented in Understanding and Predicting Personal Navigation, can predict which search result a user will choose for about a sixth of the queries that a search engine receives.

“Jaime Teevan, a researcher at Microsoft, says search engines could start by using personalization to direct users to sites they’ve visited before. It turns out that more than 25 percent of all search queries aren’t about discovering new information at all–they’re meant to navigate to information and websites that people have already visited,” Technology Review reported.

Microsoft “have been working on a system that can personalize search results without transmitting any personal information back to a search engine,” Techology Review noted. The search history is stored on the computer that made the searches, so users have the option to clear it if search results start getting away from what they see as relevant.

Shum was on the controversial panel where Google’s Matt Cutts accused Bing of copying their results. Comments have since rampant and Bing maintains it was not “copying” the results. Perhaps these changes will force Google to copy some more of the things Bing has been doing.

Personalized search in its previous iterations has not been popular and has impacted CTRs. This new predictive search algorithm may prove successful, but we will have to wait and see.

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