BrowseRank – Microsoft’s Answer to PageRank

Microsoft announced today that they’ve discovered a better way to rank web pages. While Google’s PageRank sorts roughly on the number of incoming links that point to a page, a vote of confidence by bloggers and website editors, Microsoft’s BrowseRank looks at browsing behavior to see which links get more clicks.

Sounds good on the surface. More democratic because it looks at the entire browsing population, right?

The more visits of the page made by the users and the longer time periods spent by the users on the page, the more likely the page is important. We can leverage hundreds of millions of users’ implicit voting on page importance

Not so fast. Andy Beal points out the obvious shortcomings:

“More visits?” – sure, spammers will have no idea how to inflate that metric.

“Longer time periods?” – couldn’t that also mean that your web site usability and navigation just sucks?

I would add a third. For this to work it requires that Microsoft know each and every link that you visit. I don’t know about you but there has to be a pretty good personal benefit for me to let Microsoft peer over my shoulder and take notes on every site I visit. Maybe they’ll just pay people. But as with Live Search cashback, that’s just going to attract the wrong audience and skew your biases.

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