I have not had time to fully examine Microsoft’s replacement for RealNames, however, there are a few obvious points to make.
Firstly, the claim that the user experience offered by RealNames was in some way inadequate, and that MSN was planning to improve on it, seems to have been clarified.
Here are a few examples.
Firstly, try typing “Google” into the address bar of the IE browser. In the old days, with RealNames, the user would have been taken to … guess where….. Google. Now, the user is presented with this page. Notice the first result: MSN Search. Hmmm. How hard is it to figure out the user wants Google?
Now try a well known brand. “Malibu Barbie”. Mattel was an important RealNames customer and spent a large amount of effort and money putting Keywords onto the boxes of its Barbie range. Guess what, MSN does not give you a link to the page for the Barbie doll on Mattel’s site. Maybe if we go to page 2, or 3 or 4. Who knows?
Finally, how about “Yahoo Mail”. Well at least this time MSN finds the right link. But look at result number 2 – Free E-Mail from HotMail. Now it is not clear what advanced algorithm MSN is employing to give this result. Perhaps it is a beta of the new AI abilities of MSN’s natural language platforms group. There again, maybe its just subverting search results for MSN’s marketing goals.
RealNames may have been imperfect and early stage, but it certainly was a whole lot better than this poor excuse for a user experience.
Shocking! Disgusting even!