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Will Microsoft's Pivot Reinvent How You Surf the Web?

Microsoft's in-house dev team revealed an experimental tool called Pivot, a whole new dynamic way of interacting with data on the Web and on your PC. Will it change everything? Maybe not, but it is a sign of the way things will go.


Pivot combines the ideas behind web-browsing, web search, image organizing and text information into one big data soup that has some clever graphical tools to help you sift through it for the information you're interested in finding. To extend that analogy further, Pivot's real power is that it lets you see the whole data soup at once, stir it around to see new details within it, or zoom right in to see some of the individual ingredients. If that confuses you, watch this short demonstration video:

As Microsoft notes on the Pivot Web site, the goal is to change how we interact with the Web—because the Web itself is growing at such a fast rate, adding data exponentially, and the current model of flipping through the information (kinda like dialing through pages on a rolodex) is already becoming a terrible way to do it. It's a similar story for snuffling through data on your own PC too.

Hence Pivot's graphical, Seadragon-esque interface which lets you reorganize vast piles of data ("collections" in MS parlance, which could be images on the web, text "cards" subtracted from an encyclopedia like Wikipedia or Web pages) in a very dynamic way. You could dismiss this as just another misguided attempt to reinvent the wheel, or at least to reinvent it in ways that are just technically clever and not very interesting. But this tech is partly cloud-connected, meaning it's using the web to view the web, which is novel at least. And discovering fine links between pieces of data is more likely when you view it in a new way like this, which means Pivot could actually teach you something about the information you're looking for. Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, it's a step on the road to the kind of computer interface Microsoft is imagining we'll all be using in the future—check out the Vision for 2019 clip if you don't believe me—so at least the company is being true to its word, and features like this are likely to make their way into future Windows code.

There's just a single thing holding me back from being very impressed by this: Microsoft has, yet again, somehow slapped a feeling of "yawwwwn!" over this tech. There's a spark missing somewhere, a spark I imagine would be present in an Apple or Google implementation of clever code like this (just compare this with the hype surrounding Wave). But maybe that's just me, and if you're interested (and you're running a high-end, high-graphics Windows 7 PC) then you can try out the experimental code here.

[MS Live Labs via ZDNet; Image: Flickr user Zoomar]