Skip to Content

Microsoft Game Helps Make Search Better

A new game asks users to help refine search results.
July 27, 2009

Researchers at Microsoft’s labs in Redmond, WA, have released an online game to help fine-tune search results.

Called Page Hunt, the game presents players with web pages and asks them to guess the queries that would produce the page within its first five results. Players score 100 points if the page is no.1 on the list, 90 points if it’s no.2, and so on. Bonuses are also awarded for avoiding frequently-used queries.

The idea is to gather useful information on user search habits which could be used to fine tune search algorithms and ranking scheme. The game was developed by Chris Quirk and Raman Chandrasekar at Microsoft, and colleagues from Georgia Tech and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and it was unveiled this week at the SIGIR09 conference in Boston.

Page Hunt is a clever twist on “human computation”–using people to perform tasks that computers find difficult to do. Luis von Ahn, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has been a pioneer in this area, and has developed several similar projects: spam-fighting text puzzles that simultaneously help digitize old books, and games that help tag images and music with the relevant keywords. Another cool example of human computation in action is, of course, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

The researchers behind Page Hunt have already made one curious finding while testing the game internally: the longer a page’s URL (in characters), the harder it was for users to match the page to query words. The research don’t speculate about why this should be, but here’s a graph showing the relationship between URL length and the “findability” of a page:

I found Page Hunt strangely addictive, although my first score was a pathetic 630.

A paper describing the Page Hunt research can be found here (pdf).

Keep Reading

Most Popular

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.

Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.

Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.

AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.

What’s next for AI in 2024

Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.