Searching With Ms. Dewey

When you spend as much time on the Internet as I do, you run into some truly bizarre things in the dark corners of the Web that make you wonder just what the designers were thinking. Then every so often, you find out that a major corporation sponsored the effort and you're left to struggle with the idea that important people in suits thought some such website would be a great idea.

Janina GavankarI really don't know what to make of this, but it looks like Microsoft has developed a new search site called Ms. Dewey. In a move reminiscent of AskJeeves (now just Ask), Microsoft Live Search is slapping on a face and a personality to their product to lure in more visitors. However, instead of a British butler cartoon, the site features the eponymous Flash-drawn female character that makes snappy and derisive comments based on what you're searching for.

The Ms. Dewey character is played by actress Janina Gavankar, who takes the role of librarian of the Internets. When she isn't shooting rubber bands at you or tapping on your screen, she's encouraging you to type things in the search box so she can return some results. The whole concept is unnecessarily goofy. I don't think Microsoft actually believes anyone is going to give up their Google searching or even Live searching for this site, but it's somewhat impressive how many scenes they have prerecorded from the actress. If you go to the site, I recommend searching for the term "blockbuster video" and sitting back. For some reason, she totally flips out over the idea of movie rentals.

The experience I took away from the site was a mix between amusement and annoyance. Ms. Dewey is everything that Google isn't, and I don't mean for that to come across as a good thing. Google is plain, fast, and simple. This site is none of these things (nor does it attempt to be), and the animated character doesn't add value beyond mild entertainment. At worst it actually makes search much more difficult because of the limited screen space for results to be displayed.

None of the comparisons really matter. But if the Ms. Dewey site developers decide to copy just one thing from Google, I would suggest they add their own "I'm feeling lucky" button.