Microsoft Relies on Developers to Keep Pace with Google, Yahoo

Microsoft is counting on its developer base to help it compete with rivals Google and Yahoo in the search space.

Google received 36.5 percent of all search queries on the Web in the second quarter, while Yahoo followed with 30.5 percent, according to comScore Networks, a Web metrics firm. Microsoft finished a distant third at 15.5 percent.

The software giant this week released several MSN application programming interfaces to allow developers access to Web site search results, maps and directions, digital satellite images, local points of interest and other information. Microsoft announced during its Professional Developers Conference this week that it will make the MSN Search Web Services, the MSN Messenger Activity and the MSN Virtual Earth APIs available to developers.

The MSN Search API is designed to allow developers to build applications that use Microsoft’s technology to search a Web site’s database, while the purpose of the MSN Messenger Activity API is to enable developers to create apps that include Instant Messaging.

Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, now in beta, is a new mapping tool similar to Google Maps. Virtual Earth was created to help users find locations or businesses by address and other search criteria by street-map and satellite-map views. According to the company, developers can build commercial applications through the API, and businesses can make money through the service by placing ads on their site in a revenue-sharing mode Microsoft plans to announce.

It also announced MapPoint Web Service 4.0, which is found in commercial applications as a locator tool. Microsoft expects MapPoint to help developers create mapping and location-aware applications and services to help them visualize business processes and data. Developers may also use the MapPoint as their online mapping platform, mapping coverage for 27 countries in a variety of map styles.

Info-Tech Research Group’s Carmi Levy says Microsoft’s releasing these APIs is a huge move into the search arena for the company, developers and potential users.

“Oftentimes, the perception is the first one that draws blood [has] the definitive advantage, but that’s not the whole story,” Levy says. “Microsoft is playing catch up to Google, but I wouldn’t count them out.”

Millions of developers want to create applications for Microsoft because Microsoft’s reach is worldwide, he says. In turn, “[Microsoft] will be rewarded with a rich set and ongoing process” of applications, Levy says. “These are services end users really want to use, and Microsoft doesn’t even have to ask, all they have to do is just open the floodgates.”

About the Author

Kathleen Ohlson is senior editor at Application Development Trends magazine.