These are my notes from the session Search and the Network Effect by Christopher Payne and Frederick Savoye.

This session was to announce the debut of Windows Live Search, upgrades to the features of, and the newly christened Windows Live toolbar (formerly MSN Search toolbar) which now comes with Onfolio.

The user interface of the personalized portal has undergone an overhaul, a number of gadgets such as the weather and stock quotes gadgets now look a lot snazzier. To improve the RSS reading experience there is now the ability to expand the content of a news headline simply by hovering over it and then drill down into the content if necessary. In addition, the user interface for adding gadgets to one's page has been improved and is now more intuitive. Finally, a new feature is that one can now build multiple 'pages' to organize one's gadgets and feeds of interest. I like the idea of multiple pages. I'll probably end up with three on my start page; Gadgets, News, and Blogs. It'll definitely improve the cluttered look of my current start page.

Windows Live Search is the search experience you get when you do a search on When you do a web search, you no longer get a page of N results with a series of next links to get more results. Instead you get a stream of results and a smart scroll bar which you can use to scroll up or down to view the results. So if you do a search and want to view the 105th result, instead of clicking next until you get to the page showing results 101 to 150, you just scroll down. However as noted in some comments on Slashdot this may cause some usability problems. For one, I can no longer bookmark or remember that my search result was on the third page of search results. Secondly, the fact that the scroll bar isn't relative (i.e. if there are 2,000,000 search results, moving the scrollbar halfway down doesn't jump you to the 1,000,000th result) is counter to how people expect scroll bars to behave. Another innovation in Windows Live Search is the slider that is used to show more results in Web and Image search. In image search, the slider can be used to increase the number of search results which then resizes the thumbnails on-the fly as more or fewer results are shown. This was quite impressive. There is also a 'Feed' search tab which can be used to search within RSS feeds which can then be added to one's page.

However the most interesting new feature of Windows Live search are 'search macros'. A search macro is a shortcut for a complex search result which can then be added as a tab on the search page. For example, I can customize the search tab to contain the defaults Web, Image, Local and Feed search as well as a dare.define search. The dare.define search would expand out to ( | | and I'd use it when I was searching for definitions. Users can create their own search macros and share them with others. Brady Forrest of the Windows Live search team has a lready created a few such as brady.gawkermedia which can be used to search all Gawker media sites. Search macros basically allow people to build their own vertical search engines on top of the Windows Live search experience and it is accessible to regular users. There are already dozens of macros on the Microsoft Gadgets website. In his demo, Christopher Payne showed the difference in search results when one searches for information about arctic oil drilling using the limiting one's search using the conservative site search macro vs. the liberal site search macro.

To perform a search using a macro just type "macro:[macroname] [query]" in the Windows Live Search text box, for example "macro:brady.seattle queen anne" searches a number of websites about Seattle for information about Queen Anne. There are a number of interesting operators one can use to build a macro besides site such as linkdomain, prefer and contains to name a few.

The Windows Live toolbar has learned a few new tricks since it was called the MSN Toolbar. For one, it now integrates with Windows Live Favorites so you can access your browser favorites from any machine or the Web. Another new feature is the addition of an anti-phishing feature which warns users when they visit a suspect web site. However the most significant addition is the inclusion of Onfolio, an RSS reader which plugs into the browser.