A research paper BrowseRank: Letting Web Users Vote for Page Importance delivered at a conference in Singapore this week, highlights Microsoft Asia Research's alternative to Google's PageRank algorithm, BrowserRank - "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,".
The new process, in theory, ranks sites based on their usage, and user behavior patterns. Google's algorithmic stew for rankings remains a great mystery, and an ever changing set of goalposts that are constantly gamed by companies looking to leverage search results to drive traffic, and drive revenues. Microsoft sees Google's strength in this regard as being its weakness, too, arguing that web developers have many opportunities to influence the ranking system, unfairly. BrowserRank, on the other hand, would actually try and take a look at user behavior on a site, Microsoft arguing that the more people are engaged by a site, the more likely it is that it has relevance.
Search is of tremendous importance to the Internet for many reasons. For one thing, search engines are highly influential middlemen that steer users to Web sites they may not be able to find on their own. For another, queries typed into search engines can be powerful -- and in Google's case highly profitable -- indications of what type of advertisement to place next to the search results.
But Microsoft lags leader Google and No. 2 Yahoo in search. It's trying hard to catch up, for example with unsuccessful proposals to acquire Yahoo or its search business that would cost the company billions of dollars. And Microsoft just bought search start-up Powerset.
Google isn't putting all its eggs in the PageRank basket, though.
"It's important to keep in mind that PageRank is just one of more than 200 signals we use to determine the ranking of a Web site," the company said in a statement. "Search remains at the core of everything Google does, and we are always working to improve it."