Microsoft BrowserRank versus Google PageRank

Microsoft BrowserRank versus Google PageRank

Microsoft BrowserRank versus Google PageRank

Ah, those Redmond guys just won’t accept Google’s rule. A research paper delivered at a conference in Singapore this week, highlights Microsoft Asia Research’s alternative to Google’s PageRank algorithm, BrowserRank. The new process, in theory, ranks sites based on their usage, and user behavior patterns. Google’s algorithmic stew for rankings remains a great mystery, and an ever changing set of goalposts that are constantly gamed by companies looking to leverage search results to drive traffic, and drive revenues. Microsoft sees Google’s strength in this regard as being its weakness, too, arguing that web developers have many opportunities to influence the ranking system, unfairly. BrowserRank, on the other hand, would actually try and take a look at user behavior on a site, Microsoft arguing that the more people are engaged by a site, the more likely it is that it has relevance.

The Web is a fickle mistress. Google does not take its monopoly of search lightly and contends that its audience could just as easily switch search alliances if a better search engine came along. Google is also no slouch in the research department and is one of a few companies that can match Microsoft in spending in this area. So, it’s superficial to assume that there is any direct challenge to Google from Microsoft presently.

Nevertheless, some of Microsoft’s arguments about Google’s PageRank system are well founded. SEO, search engine optimization, is an actual business function. There are people who claim to be experts, but if you’ve ever worked with one, you’d know that they cannot guarantee results, merely an understanding of some of the ways in which Google works. Do a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and hope it works out for you.

On the other hand, there are businesses that thrive, and are extremely profitable, and all they do is game Google search traffic. We’ve all been there, a page that ranks high, seems to be relevant, but is just a set of paid links. This kind of thing is akin to the prevalence of viruses on Windows: when you are popular and ubiquitous, you are prone to more attacks, and unsavory practices.

However, BrowserRank does raise some interesting points. It tries to judge a page by its usage, which kind of means popularity,too. This makes it great for well trafficked sites, perhaps. Interestingly enough, the Microsoft researchers admit that the paucity of data that would be attached to the tail pages of a site, in other words places where user data is sparse, would require some sort of page ranking algorithm, akin to Google’s.

BrowserRank collects user data from the browser and server side of the process. The researchers are very clear in saying that they used a large group of users to verify their claims that BrowserRank was a better measurement than PageRank, and that it was “under legal agreements with them.” Perhaps a sign that Microsoft is sensitive to the notion that it is collecting more personal data than Google may be, or just sensitive in general? On the other hand, doesn’t something like an Alexa toolbar also rank your site based on its usage?

The pdf of the original research paper can be found here . BrowserRank seems to be a finesse approach to page rankins in search, while PageRank goes for volume. Does Microsoft have a version 1, 2, and 3 of search in the offering? We know that it is only on version 3 that Redmond kind of manages to play the game as it ought to be played.


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Toni Anicic said,

    Microsoft made a good point there. A good relevance factor would be time spent on site and most of the spammy and ads only websites wouldn’t be able to fight that algorithm.

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