Redmond (WA) – Microsoft acquired the domain Kumo.com last week, a move that is widely expected to result in the second rebranding of its search engine. Following MSN and Live.com, Kumo could be a sign of a new attempt to limit Google’s growth and detach the search engine from a growing number of Live services offered by Microsoft.
LiveSide.net was first to report Microsoft’s registration of Kumo.com. The domain was apparently acquired from CSC Corporate Domains, which apparently picked the domain up from semiconductor equipment supplier Schlumberger, which abandoned the domain sometime after 2000: Schlumberger acquired Kumo.com through the acquisition of Merak Projects, an oil software company, in August 1999.
Going further back in time, Merak Projects acquired the domain through the purchase of Kumo Software Corporation, a former Calgary-based web development firm, in late 1998. Kumo Software Corporation was the first owner of the domain with first records of website activity dating back to early 1996.
The name “Kumo” translates to “cloud” or “spider” in Japanese. Kumo Software Corporation used a black spider on red background in its company logo.
The rumor mill about a possible rebranding of Live.com to Kumo.com is spinning at full speed. TechCrunch, for example, suggests that this will happen “sometime early next year,” citing a source within the company.
The question, of course is, whether Kumo.com can be more successful than Live.com, which has clearly hit a wall and has not shown growth over the past few months, despite some incentive programs that actually “pays” users for using the service. However, some industry voices have mentioned in the past that Microsoft needs to detach its search engine from the increasingly complex Live brand umbrella. Apparently, Microsoft plans to turn Live.com into a social-networking-based personalized destination that aggregates email, calendar, photos, activity streams from other sites such as Digg and Facebook, etc. From marketeer’s perspective, the time to rebrand the distant third search engine is certainly now.
ComScore’s Media Metrix qSearch survey of web activities of 1.5 million English-speakers worldwide (1 million in the United States) via proxy metering ranks Google with a 43.7% search share, followed by Yahoo and MSN with 28.8% and 12.8% respectively. Microsoft’s share has been on a decline since March 2005, when ComScore put MSN at around 17%. In the meantime, Google has been growing its then nearly 37% share of the search market, at the expense of both Yahoo and MSN. According to Nielsen Netratings, Google’s search engine had a 59.7% market share among U.S. users in October, followed by Yahoo with 18.1% and Live. Search with 11.8%.
Microsoft rebranded MSN to Live search in March of 2006. But the brand umbrella soon gave home to a wide variety of other online service with long names, like Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Hotmail, etc., which somewhat diluted the Live.com search engine brand.