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Tafiti: Searching With Silverlight

Tafiti: It sounds like something contestants might yell on Survivor Africa. But it's really an experimental Microsoft  search mashup application built around the company's Silverlight cross-platform streaming media technology and Microsoft's Live Search engine.

The experimental application, which uses Silverlight to front-end Windows Live Search, is available online as of this week. "[Tafiti is] meant to help users conduct Web research that spans multiple queries and sessions by helping them visualize, store and share the result," according to a Microsoft blog post regarding Tafiti.

Actually, the name is a Swahili word meaning "do research," according to a Web site Microsoft has set up to showcase the mashup. Tafiti "is an experimental search front-end from Microsoft, designed to help people use the Web for research projects that span multiple search queries and sessions by helping visualize, store, and share research results," according to a description of it on the Tafiti site.

Microsoft has been struggling for several years to catch up with Google's and Yahoo's search engines after initially missing the Internet search wave. The combination of Live Search with Silverlight's cross platform imaging could help give those efforts a leg up as Microsoft moves further along with its Live "software plus services" initiative to transform the company.

Tafiti lets users perform multiple searches, and store the search results for later retrieval. One of the defining features is a set of onscreen "shelves" where the user can drag and drop interesting search results into stacks that can be labeled, e-mailed to others, and posted to blogs. Another feature lets users view a tree representation that slowly cycles through search results.

While it isn't expected to be released as a commercial application -- Tafiti was created as a demonstration of what developers can do by combining the technologies -- one blog entry on Microsoft's Channel 10 developers' site did suggest that the code for the mashup might eventually be released as open source software.

Microsoft introduced Silverlight in late April and began testing a "release candidate" -- the last step before commercial release -- of version 1.0 in late July.

Silverlight provides a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering rich Internet applications, two- and three-dimensional graphics, text, animation and video to a wide variety of form factors and platforms, according to company statements. As Silverlight, which supports a subset of Microsoft's .NET Framework, becomes more programmable, it promises to challenge competing technologies such as Adobe's Flash.

Microsoft said Tafiti supports Windows Vista and Windows XP Service Pack 2, including Internet Explorer 6 and 7, and Mozilla Firefox 1.5.0.8, and Firefox 2.0.x. It also supports Apple Mac OS X with Firefox 1.5.0.8 and Firefox 2.0.x, as well as Apple Safari 2.0.4.