Microsoft Tafiti

Microsoft have released a beta search front-end to its Live Search. Called Tafiti, which means “do research” in Swahili, it is intended to help “people use the Web for research projects that span multiple search queries and sessions by helping visualize, store, and share research results”. When you first log in to the site, you are greeted with a clean, Web 2.0-ish minimalist screen. A box tells you that you need to install something called Microsoft Silverlight. Once you have done that, however, the interface changes to what I can only describe as ‘library retro’. A grubby, dog-eared catalogue card [oh dear!] with a search box materialises, and a group of icons representing web, books, news, images and feeds start whizzing around in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, but they do eventually settle down.

You type your search terms on the card, which then goes off to the left hand side of the screen, and your results are listed in what looks suspiciously like a drawer from a card catalogue filing cabinet. The library theme continues with options to drag and drop items from your results lists to ‘shelves’ on the right hand side of the screen. These can be saved for future sessions. You can switch from the default web search to another type of resource by clicking on the icons in the bottom left hand corner. Images worked fine for me, but I found the layout of the feeds results confusing and loathed the attempt at mimicking a newspaper layout for the news items. I was expecting to see a pile of books for the book search but had no results for any of my searches. Tafiti is experimental so it is not surprising that there are some glitches.

Default web results layout:

Tafiti default layout

There is an alternative ‘tree view’ for the web results, which is a complete contrast to the default interface. Several reviewers have commented on its similarity to Kartoo but at least that does not make me feel sea-sick. A revolving tree with text continually changing size and dropping in and out of focus is the last thing you want if you are feeling even slightly off-colour! There was an opaque area at the bottom of the screen with a line on it and some symbols that I could not identify. I have since discovered from Philipp Lenssen’s Blogoscoped posting that it is a slider bar that is supposed to allow you to reduce the number of branches and leaves. Well, it did not work for me but perhaps that is because I am using Firefox rather than IE. Two arrow buttons toggle the rotation direction. Those did work but made me feel even more dizzy and confused.

Tafiti tree view:

Tafiti tree view

Phil Bradley was not impressed, to put it mildly. I am in two minds about it. The idea behind Tafiti of bringing together information of different types is great. The implementation, and especially the library theme, irritated me and more importantly distracted me from the content. Ask does a far better job (see my blog posting at I was pleasantly surprised that the Silverlight plug-in worked in Firefox, but seriously annoyed that the right click menu options were disabled as was the back button, the F11 key and the scroll on my mouse.

Overall, Tafiti is interesting and I shall be keeping an eye on it to see how it develops. When it comes to day-to-day searching, though, I much prefer the standard interface.

AlacraSearch for industry and market sector searches

Alacra has launched a new search tool for industry and market sector information called AlacraSearch. It uses the Google Custom Search Engines and has approximately 12,000 Alacra chosen sites in eight categories:

  • Business & Trade Publications
  • Law Firms
  • Commercial & Investment Banks
  • Consulting and Accounting Firms
  • Educational Institutions
  • Market Research Firms
  • Trade Associations
  • Venture Capital & Private Equity Firms

The service is free and supported by advertising.

On the main search screen you type in your key words and select a category. On the results page you can easily switch categories. For example, having run a search on ‘beer UK market share’ in the Business and Trade Publications category I could switch to Trade Associations or Market Research Firms. Depending on which category you choose to search, you can further refine your results by industry or geography. Having carried out my initial ‘beer’ search in Business & Trade, I can narrow down the publications further by selecting Food & Beverage.


Alacra already has an industry research tool on Alacrawiki called Alacra Industry Spotlights that has a page for each industry describing the key resources for the sector. The Spotlights are ideal if you are new to a sector and need to get up to speed on the main publications. AlacraSearch complements Alacra Spotlights by enabling you to search these and other sources by keywords. I now regularly use both and find that they are an excellent way of quickly focusing on quality business sites.

Highly recommended if you are looking for a business information search tool.