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MS Patent Applications Reveal Search Technology 87

eldavojohn writes, "In the roughly 90 patents they applied for on November 2, 2006, Microsoft reveals that it is apparently pushing its research in the search engine market. There are a few patents that reveal improved ranking methods and document classification but the real interesting ones revolve around linking related queries, optimizing search, identifying results that are spam, and using a Bayesian classifier to measure feedback from the user. If that's not enough, there's even a few I don't quite understand. Another notable Microsoft application for a patent is the model for assisting children in authoring stories so you can't accuse Microsoft of not thinking of the children. Microsoft regularly applies for many patents but never so many revolving around search."
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MS Patent Applications Reveal Search Technology

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  • by Tokerat ( 150341 ) on Monday November 06, 2006 @12:53AM (#16731887) Journal
    This patent [uspto.gov] sounds like they've patented the idea of recording which search links are clicked on most often for a given query, thus providing feedback given a random session number of which links you clicked on, and if you came back and tried something else.

    it would improve search results for future searchers, but I dunno if I like the idea of my search being tracked.

    Not only do my searched probably already get tracked without my knowledge but I might be completely wrong about this patent as I only perused it.
    • by tsa ( 15680 )
      But don't all search engines on the web track all searches? AOL [webpronews.com] comes to mind...
      • by Tokerat ( 150341 )
        Yes but do they do it using "sessions" -i.e. cookies- to see if the user returns to select a different link? This isn't "record what teh users are typing into the search box" this is "track what they click based on what they searched for and factor it into the rankings"
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That hyperlink that has "understand" as anchor text has NOTHING to do with searches, it's a database related patent (being from MS, we can safely assume it's a SQL Server related patent).

      And being on topic: everybody out there is already logging you, from your ISP, big brother, search engines, advertising sites/outlets, your various cards that give points at stores, you name it, you're being tracked. This is hardly worse. It's not like someone's going to sit there and manually check what you've clicked onto
      • ...your various cards that give points at stores, you name it, you're being tracked.

        Yes they are tracking me. that means that when i buy skippy peanut butter every time i am in there, and they scan my card, i get coupons for skippy peanut butter.

        point being: its like targeted advertising

        staying on topic: i use google logged in. i don't care. i don't agree with aol released their data the way they did, because it was still personally identifiable. but i don't mind people inside google using my data to bet

  • Does anyone use MS' web search page [live.com]? After its introduction with much noise I've never heard anything about that anymore.
    • I use Microsoft Live Search for all my web page searches.
            Reason being: to not use Google and support a large company's core-product that gives them their bread and butter of profit.
      M$ has got too much cash.
      However, using Microsoft search probably doesn't make a difference to them fiscally because it's scarcely used anyway: it's a side product for marketing that doesn't affect me.

           
    • It's the #2 search used, behind google and ahead of Yahoo. I don't know what the numbers are, though I suspect Google has a significant lead.
      • The numbers for MSN search are artificially inflated by the fact that IE is set (by default) to automatically do a search using MSN search, if the domain name in the address bar is not found. Of course, the same is true of Google and Firefox. The difference is that most Firefox users know this and use it as a feature. Mostly IE users have no idea why they get a completely different page to the one they intended.
        • A hit is a hit is a hit, regardless of the intent. You might not like it but the numbers aren't false.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by gamlidek ( 459505 )
            A hit is a hit is a hit, regardless of the intent. You might not like it but the numbers aren't false.

            That may be. But how many non-false hits were unintentional and thus serving useless search information to someone that just says "whoops, I meant to type in the .com at the end" and ignores the results? Or better yet, how many hits resulted in an intentional search? *That* would be a more useful number. I've always had a problem with how folks quantify how well a thing is on the Internet by the number
            • it is only a hit if someone uses Live.com, searches on results and then clicks on a link. Measuring on searches that arrive at a website then the varous MS properties are #3. The result from Live.com are not good either. Lots of dupe results and easy to spam.
              • > easy to spam

                I should maybe clarify that. The results put too much weight on blogs and on on-page factors such as keywords in the URL or domain name. This has been a constant theme for MSN search properties. The results are certainly different from Google but they are not better quality.
    • I use it quite a bit. I can't tell the difference between MS's results and Google's results, and it's easier to get rid of the advertisements in MS's results.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by omicronish ( 750174 )

      Does anyone use MS' web search page? After its introduction with much noise I've never heard anything about that anymore.

      I use it, although in all honesty, it's about the same as Google search for me. Results are good enough that I'm happy. However, I do like Live Image Search [live.com] far more than Google Image Search [google.com]. Live Image search has infinite scroll (no more clicking Next), the images are more relevant in my experience (try "Al Gore" on Live [live.com] and Google [google.com]), and it lists related people. It also has my favorite

      • by Quevar ( 882612 )
        I just tried the Live Image Search and Google Image Search links you provided and found little difference between them. The biggest difference was that Live Image returned one of Gore throwing a football and Google did not, but it was the first on the second page. From that example, I couldn't tell much difference.

        Also, I failed to understand what you mean by the infinite scroll - at the bottom of the page on both was a link to more pages of pictures. Live Image had five numbers listed and Google had 10
        • Try that page in IE instead. I opened it in Opera and that was what I saw as well. But I know the interface is different in IE. Not too sure about which interface Firefox sees though.
        • Also, I failed to understand what you mean by the infinite scroll - at the bottom of the page on both was a link to more pages of pictures. Live Image had five numbers listed and Google had 10 pages listed with a next button.

          What browser are you using? I tried it with Firefox 2.0 today and it had infinite scroll. Downlevel browsers will revert to the standard page-by-page view.

    • I don't know, but I'm starting to think that nearly anything is better than google. 8 of the first 10 results usually end up being spam mini-search engines that have nothing to do with the product "you can purchase ___enter whatever your search term was here___ for half-cost!".

      Lately I've been using either wikipedia or a torrent search engine to find most what I am searching for.
      • Lately I've been using either wikipedia or a torrent search engine to find most what I am searching for.

        Quite curious what kind of searches you do...

    • It's alright. Really, it's as good as google... except that I've been soaked into all the gApps. In fact, it's probably better since all the spam hasn't really hit there yet.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I've used google exclusively for about 5 years or so, and finding their quality is very much downhill over the last year or so. Tired of the link farms and junk.

      I decided a couple weeks ago to try live.com after seeing some article about creating your own search engine using macros (haven't tried that yet). But so far, the results are no worse than google's (perhaps because linkfarms and content spamming and such is optimized to work on google? don't know for sure). They seem pretty motivated to improve the
      • And their maps loads a LOT faster than google's, and work far better (no waiting for all the pictures making up a map to slowly load (for every zoom level), and then half the time having to drag it out and back because pictures some didn't load at all). It just works, and very quickly. I like the google maps controls better still, but like anything there's always some adaptation to a new interface. (No idea about map coverage for whatever countries or such, but it works very good for North America at least

    • The funny part is that both that version of the MS Search and the one before were claimed to be Google killers. ;-)
    • by suv4x4 ( 956391 )
      After its introduction with much noise I've never heard anything about that anymore.

      There was no much noise in the introduction of live.com.

      Still you can expect them to start eating over 30-40% of the market after IE7 and/or Vista spread wide enough.
    • I'm using Live.com about 1/2 the time and increasing daily. I started trying it just to check relevance (based on my own highly scientific algorithms ;)and have found the results to be almost always as good or better than Google. I'm still having a little trouble getting used to the Live.com UI after using Google for so long but it grows on you.
  • Maybe it conincides with the opening of the Search Technology Center [microsoft.com] in China 1 year ago.

    Some of the authors of the patent applications are listed as from Beijing, China.

  • Did anyone else read that as: (with my "")

    Another notable Microsoft application for a patent is the model for "assisting children in authoring stories so you can't accuse Microsoft of not thinking of the children."
  • Google's been producing a number of offerings that go after an area Microsoft's long dominated (the Office suite and its components). Seems like it'd be a smart business move for Microsoft to try to push Google a little on its turf, especially since they've had a (admittedly, much weaker) search offering for a long time.

    Also, it seems like advances in searching algorithms might be easily applicable to a lot of existing Microsoft products without even going into Google country.

    And, hey. Microsoft likes to
  • Has microsoft been accused of not thinking of children? I think they understand that if the children only know how to use a microsoft operating system then when they grow up they'll continue to buy computers with microsoft.

    They also design their gui with children in mind, or maybe children design their gui, one or the other
    • I think that was Apple with all their educational discounts. It didn't work out so well for them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by gzearfoss ( 829360 )

      They also design their gui with children in mind, or maybe children design their gui, one or the other

      They tend to design guis with ease-of-use in mind, especially aiming for the least-common-denominator, which oftentimes happens to be kids. For Joe Non-Techie, it's easier to understand a dog asking questions about searching, than a bunch of tickyboxen with technical descriptions. (Personally, I hate that animated character, but my Grandfather finds it easier to use and makes the computer seem friendlier.

      • Yea pass it this way before another person at work comes to be grieving about how 'clippy' the paperclip guy messed up their document

        suuuuuuuure it was 'clippys' fault sir ....
  • This is hardly surprising. Microsoft has a ton of researchers working on all kinds of things search. At this year's SIGIR (Special Interest Group for Information Retrieval), Microsoft had the most papers presented by far. It is also interesting to note that SIGIR 2006 was not very far from Redmond - in Seattle. More about SIGIR 2006 at http://www.sigir2006.org/ [sigir2006.org] (MS was also a "Diamond Sponsor" for the event).
  • by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:59AM (#16732167)
    Software patents are proved that they are needless and very anticompetitive. They must go. Period.

    I decided to post this under EVERY article about software patents, because no matter how good or bad example is, truth usually is that this patent will be never used in it's meant way. Can call me a troll, but after all sharade of Microsoft/Novell deal, after EU/EC fiasco, after all copyright extentions I have enough.

    I call for political change in this field. Like it or not, guys, we must fight. And no more arguing that some software patents must be good, otherwise such silly concept would be never put into realisation, right?

    And no more buts and "ohhs" and "but lobbies are too strong". I have never seen sysadmins and other IT people marching and protesting about ANY issue. We just wine and cry and when everything is happening in bad way, we all say "I told you so."

    Not any more. At least, for me. Let's do it guys. Let's work for a change. You can support fight in Europe (http://swpat.ffii.org/ [ffii.org]) or you can try to build consensus and inform people in your home. Inform people in polite way about the issue, don't force point of view. Describe what consequences are here for all that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by donaldm ( 919619 )
      I can read the frustration in your post but IMHO you are not a troll. Sorry have not read your URL yet but will do after your post (looks interesting though).

      In many ways I agree with you because I think the average person feels so powerless in the face of Mega/Giga dollars that companies like Microsoft wield to push through patents in software that to people in the field feel are trivial and obvious.

      I am very anti software patents because they are based on maths and logic which should not (IMHO) be patenta
      • >patent law reform will only come from the judiciary

        Patent law is set by Congress.

        Imagine your Linux user group showing up every two years to man the phones and install the computers at the campaign of the most friendly candidate. You will get attention like someone with a huge check would get attention. If you're in South Dakota where there are only 425,000 registered voters only a fraction of which turn out, you'll have enough power that your Senators will be oddly passionate about eliminating algorit
    • by donaldm ( 919619 )
      From the (http://swpat.ffii.org/) the following URL has Quotations on Software patents.

      http://swpat.ffii.org/vreji/quotes/index.en.html [ffii.org]

      Very interesting read even Bill Gates seems to come out in favour of abolishing software patents. Of course that was in 1991. I guess he must have done a 180.
    • by adah ( 941522 )

      Software patents are proved that they are needless and very anticompetitive. They must go. Period.

      What are software patents, anyway?

      Don't be mistaken, I am a software developer, and I don't like patents. However, I cannot see enough reasons why there must be a clear boundary around software. To take a no-so-good example, ClearType (I know that it was Woz [grc.com] who invented a similar technology more than twenty years ago). It is about sub-pixel font rendering. Is it a software patent? I suppose people will s

  • That's what computers are for, silly!

    A number of graphics editing applications may exist for enabling image content to be accessed, edited and/or arranged in various ways. People may often lack sufficient artistic, design, technical and/or other skills, however, which may be needed to leverage such image content to create and/or illustrate stories, for example. For instance, young children who may be extremely bright, imaginative, creative and otherwise ideal story tellers may often struggle with leverag

  • With Google being quiet about most of its search algorithms, I can see Microsoft potentially using these patents to 'sell' licenses to Google. It'd be a no-win situation for Google - either buy a license for the technology, Microsoft sues them for patent infringement, or reveal (enough of) their search and ranking algorithm to show that they aren't in violation.

    On the other hand, can trade secrets (I'm thinking Google's algorithms) be used to show prior art without exposing such secrets to the general publ
  • Weren't patents supposed to be an act of charity? Like lending the small guy a hand?

    I mean have no right to prevent people from doing stuff because "you thought of it first", this is the adult way of saying "I saw it first then it's mine"!

    I think innovation is screwed in the US.

    Down with patents
  • We will destroy them or any startups with litigation with broad ranging patents.

  • I'm slowly working through the meat of these patents but the first one in the list Ranking results using multiple nested ranking [uspto.gov] appears to document the current state of the art in search. That is that ranking algorithms are applied in stages to progressively filter results. It doesn't appear to describe anything new.
  • Prior Art (Score:4, Interesting)

    by David Off ( 101038 ) on Monday November 06, 2006 @03:56AM (#16732689) Homepage
    This Patent application for a system to analyze and compare of portfolios by citation [uspto.gov] submitted by Microsoft sounds like it might actually help a patent examiner find prior art for all these Microsoft software patents. It describes a system for classifying documents and finding and analyzing relations (citations) between two sets of documents. Although that does sound a lot like PageRank and anchor text analysis doesn't it?
  • It is just me ?

    Why Microsoft can't produce better code than OSS, Google ?

    When some one success some where Microsoft respond via Patents, Copyrights and other pesky lawyer methods.

    Is Microsoft a software house or what ?

    Why any IT Media person doesn't ask this to Ballmer or Gates ?
  • These patents are so amazing that Slashdot can't find anything to say.
  • The patents were published on Nov. 2, 2006. They were filed 18 months prior to that---around April 2005. That may seem like a nitpicky point, but it could be very important in May of 2025.
  • Google filed 31 patents [uspto.gov] in their lifetime. Granted they are younger and smaller than MS but does this represent a different thinking about IP?
  • A bayesian filter is statistical analysis, right? so, see this comment [slashdot.org]. If the average slashdotter, me, comes up with this idea in the brief time between reading a story and getting bored with the discussion, IT IS A STUPID PATENT.

    Btw, since i can document i had the idea first, the patent should not apply to my friggin' projects too. Friggin' patents.
  • Patent description:

    A unique system and method that facilitates improving the ranking of items is provided. The system and method involve re-ranking decreasing subsets of high ranked items in separate stages. In particular, a basic ranking component can rank a set of items. A subset of the top or high ranking items can be taken and used as a new training set to train a component for improving the ranking among these high ranked documents. This process can be repeated on an arbitrary number of successive high
    • A small correction. The above was Baldwin's variant of Nanson's method. Nanson actually drops the bottom 50% of Borda scores with each iteration, while Baldwin's drops the single lowest score. Both would seem to be covered by this patent, though, as would any voting method that drops a subset of the data and recalculates.
  • others are, too. Prior art can be found, though I have only ever released a couple of screenshots on a site (in 2003) that no longer exists.

    This is such bs. (So far from what I am reading), a bunch of techno-mumbo-jumbo used as a wrapper to disguise the obviousness or actual pre-existence of software and hardware that only need cobbling together, not unlike taking a door off the hinges and using it as a snow mobile ski in an emergency and then finding it has real-world application, but is still NOT non-obvi
    • Fixed bad quotation marks selection which did not print; forgot to mention on-line language translation services and applications [0032] references to changing languages on behalf of the users. However, most language conversion would not be trusworthy enough (contextual references would be needed, and many of us who watch foreign or translated films and movies in their native and in the english subtitles and who as our friends to verify the similarities or differences know that much is lost in translation.
  • I looked at this one briefly and it looks to me, at least on the surface, like nothing more than the ability to constrain (or hint, as Oracle calls it) the search plans that the query optimizer will consider.

    Oracle implented an ability to embed "hints" within a query that forced the query optimizer to make some basic assumptions (such as requiring that a certain index be used, for example), in the 90's.

    Another, less well known database, Ingres (now FOSS), already had a statistical optimizer in the early

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