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Windows Live is the red-headed stepchild of online search. Which is too bad, because I really like the site.

Microsoft is doing some really innovative stuff on this site (see Microsoft Virtual Earth Delivers 3D Advertising), and their Live search for mobile product (wls.live.com) is really kickass – it blows Google Mobile away, in my opinion.

But for all the innovation, the site definitely still feels like Microsoft hasn’t really figured out what to do with it yet. There doesn’t seem to be any clear strategy behind the whole Live effort, which is kind of odd.

Greg Sterling points out Windows Live has just added Classifieds results to the search engine. Windows Live Expo is Microsoft’s answer to Google Base or craigslist (see The Big Guys Are Moving In); and Windows Live Search is now incorporating Live Expo results under the Classifieds tab. (Bear with me on this one – as usual Microsoft has not made their branding easy to follow…)

It’s obviously a work in progress. The listings are woefully inadequate. Only 11 houses for sale in Portland!

And unfortunately, clicking on ‘Map the Results’ doesn’t seem to work right now – or at least it didn’t for me.

But tantalizingly, it looks like you might be able to map those results directly into the 3D version of Virtual Earth. That would be very cool. A 3D home search right in your browser. You can also add an RSS feed of your search results directly to your Live.com homepage.

Clicking on an individual listing (e.g. Gorgeous Colonial in Canby, OR) and there’s a number of other noteworthy features.

First and foremost, is the ability to share the listing on Facebook – which is the first example I’ve seen of direct integration between search engine (or Realty.bot to quote Greg Swann) results and a social network. New ways to share your findings with family and friends is going to be a big trend this year I expect.

On a more practical note, the ability to plot driving directions to a listing is a natural and instantly usable feature that I’m surprised more map based search sites (Trulia, Redfin, etc.) haven’t implemented.

My theory is that the Live platform is just a testbed for new ideas, a running Beta so to speak, to allow Microsoft to tinker with some of these new ideas and technologies before committing to them wholesale in their more mainstream MSN brand.

I’ll be interested to see whether Microsoft can capitalize on some of this innovation or if the ideas will get picked up by one of the other consumer portals (Yahoo! Real Estate or AOL Real Estate) and Windows Live gets left behind again.

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