Microsoft's Research group announced an Internet Explorer 7 plug-in called SearchTogether on Wednesday that turns Web searches into a group activity.
The plug-in lets people set up what amounts to search chat rooms, in which a group of people can jointly peruse search results. Users can chat, annotate specific results with comments, ratings, and recommendations. Members of a group also can return later to view the annotated search session.
It also lets people perform a "split search," in which results are divided among different users in separate browser tabs. Many hands make light work, as the saying goes.
on the MSR page:
- Awareness: The most valuable of the three. This is enabled by sharing group query histories and making them interactive, thereby reducing duplication. This process also can promote search learning, in which someone with rudimentary search skills can learn how to formulate more effective search queries by working with a person with more expertise. The ability to see other group members’ comments and ratings on specific search results also provides awareness about the group’s progress toward accomplishing their shared task.
- Division of labor: SearchTogether integrates session-specific instant messaging into the search experience so that those working together on a search project don’t have to switch back and forth between a search client and Live Messenger to negotiate division of labor. Additionally, special collaborative query styles, such as “split searching,” provide automatic division of labor by partitioning a single set of search results among all team members. Sharing of queries and recommendations helps make the search effort productive.
- Persistence: The group’s queries, comments, ratings, and chats are stored in a persistent search session, facilitating asynchronous communication and helping collaborators get up to speed.