Yesterday at TechFest, Microsoft Research unveiled three projects designed to enhance a user’s search experience. Two projects, SearchTogether and CoSearch, are aimed at collaborative search while SearchBar assists the individual searcher.
SearchTogether is a free Internet Explorer plugin that allows groups of people searching on multiple computers in different countries to collaborate their searches. The plugin will be available for download later this Spring and installs a sidebar on the IE web browser. SearchTogether’s features include group query histories, split searching, page-level rating and commenting, automatically-generated shared summaries, peek-and-follow browsing, and integrated chat.
CoSearch enables collaborative search while users are gathered around a single computer. This is facilitated by the use of multiple mice or cell phones. For example, a person might use their cell phone to maneuver a cursor on the screen and transfer data to their phone, while another user may use a mouse to follow links on the same page at the same time.
Searchbar is an advanced search history tool that operates as a sidebar in a user’s web browser. Users can save searches in order to return to them later and pick up where they left off. SearchBar organizes the searches in a hierarchical tree format. Users can write notes to themselves to remind them of future searches or any other information they wish to remember about their search queries.
Microsoft’s projects are comparable to recent efforts by Google and social media startups to personalize and socialize search. But Microsoft could take the lead on such efforts because these projects offer users increased control of their own research efforts. With the ability to easily keep personal accounts of search queries and share and receive results from people they know, instead of being purely subject to algorithms and the opinions of a broad audience.