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Microsoft Quietly Launches Froogle Competitor

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Microsoft Live Products launched today at products.live.com. They’ve included retail products from 100,000 sellers. Like Froogle, Live Products is a commerce-only search engine/shopping comparison engine that will, hopefully, give users more relevant results when looking to buy items online. Like Froogle, Live Products does not take payment from merchants for appearing within search results.

There is an important difference between Froogle and Live Products, however. Froogle takes data from merchants via a push model (merchants use a Froogle API to include information), whereas Live Products pulls the data from the main Live Search web index – so Live Producst is presenting crawled results and algorithmic ranking. Merchants will be included if they are in the index without taking any additional steps.

Live Products is not as good as Froogle yet, although a big part of this may be due to the fact that Froogle, with their push model, obtain very structured data from merchants. Live Products, in contrast, structures the data directly.

Compare a search for “iPod” on Live Products v. the same search on Froogle (screen shots of both are below). Froogle returns results near-instantly, whereas Live Products takes 2-4 seconds to return results on my computer. Froogle also returns just iPod results, whereas Live Products is including accessories, and even putting them above actual iPods in the results. Finally, while both services allow users to refine results by brand, seller or related terms, I like that Google includes this at the top of results without an additional click: its easier to notice (compared to Live Product’s very clean, but easy to miss drop down links) and it saves a click.

Froogle also includes user reviews of merchants, something that is in the planning stages at Live Product but hasn’t been released yet.

Live Products does have a couple of great features, though. The fact that they are taking information directly from the search index means they’ll have more complete data than Froogle. Also, I like the Ajax slider that controls how much information is returned for each result (including images on/off). I also like the ability to sort results by price, it’s a better way to see results v. Froogle’s refinement by price feature.

Some users will like using Live Products for ecommerce related searches. It makes sense for Microsoft to address this group – the ads that are served on Live Products are going to be significantly more targeted, and therefore more expensive, than similar ads on general search.

No word yet on how Live Products will integrate, if at all, with Live Shopping. The good news is that, unlike Live Shopping, Live Products works with Firefox.

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