Natural Search Blog


MicroSoft’s Ms. Dewey Linkbait: Avatars for Blogs & Other Uses

MicroSoft has launched an avatar-fronted search interface called
Ms. Dewey, in order to promote their MS Live search service. An avatar is a term coopted from virtual reality which is used to describe the graphic representation of a person within the VR environment.

Ms. Dewey

The Ms. Dewey avatar is a clever piece of Flash engineering coupled up with various video files and the MS Live search engine. Ms. Dewey is played by an actress named Janina Gavankar, who apparently prerecorded a bunch of video snippets which are queued up contextually for various responses to search terms that are typed into the submission form field. After you submit a search keyword, she says (and sometimes does) something witty, then the MS Live search results scroll down in an AJAX menu beside her.

Try out these particularly funny search terms on Ms. Dewey:

Congress
gmail
President Bush
Dick Cheney
weather forecasts
Yo Mama
Painting
Lord of the Rings
UFOs
MySpace
FireFox
Halo 2

A “share this with a friend” link is included, making this qualify even more as some nice linkbait, as some online marketing folx refer to it. While quite a few folx have turned their noses up at Ms. Dewey as not being a serious search service contender, they’re perhaps missing the point that she’s pretty fun to interact with, and as a promotional effort goes, it’s probably pretty effective linkbait. Within just a short timeframe, many people will have emailed links to Ms. Dewey to their friends, getting a whole lot of people to use MicroSoft’s search engine who otherwise wouldn’t have tried it out.

I’d only say that the design group has dropped the ball a bit by not highlighting their MS Live brandname on the search results. (They also dropped the ball by advertising Ms. Dewey’s email address through the interface, ms-dewey@hotmail.com, because it’s inoperative, at least when I tested it. “Status: 5.0.0 – Remote SMTP server has rejected address”. They should have had someone responding to those notes, or they should’ve created an intelligent agent to respond to submissions to it.)

It’s maybe mentionable that Ask dropped the Jeeves butler mascot from the frontend of their search earlier this year, and here MicroSoft is adding a human mascot onto their search. Ask was never this attractive, though, and this ploy doesn’t seem in the least retro. Slick!

Interfaces like Ms. Dewey actually aren’t all that hard to do, and there’s one company that has made it really easy to incorporate interactive avatars similar to this within your blogs and other websites. Read on and I’ll describe how you can use avatars.

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