Better Late Than Never: MSN Search Debuts

Microsoft made it official today, launching its own search engine — MSN Search — and jettisoning Yahoo, whose search technology it had been using. A redesigned MSN home page has been launched alongside the new search engine.

MSN Search, which Microsoft built from scratch, is available in 25 countriesand 10 languages, but the software giant is still fighting an uphill battle, oneanalyst said.

“The prevalence of Google is going to be difficult for Microsoft to catchup with,” Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at JupiterMedia, told TechNewsWorld. “Google is a verb in our lexicon and that’s adifficult thing to get around.”

Tabbed Searching

The new engine offers tabs to limit searches to the Web, images, news, musicand MSN’s encyclopedia, Encarta. Encarta’s premium service had previously carried afee, but all information from the reference tool will now be available free,for two-hour sessions, through the search engine. Microsoft said availablecontent will vary by market. Still in beta is MSN Toolbar Suite, a downloadthat allows users to search their computers.

A test search for “Iraqi elections” found no great differences among the resultsin Google, MSN Search and Yahoo searches, but Gartenberg said Microsoft”seemed to have been focusing on answers to questions as opposed to pages ofresults.” That, he said, may not be enough to distinguish it.

“To be successful, they’re going to have to find ways to offer somethingGoogle doesn’t,” he said.

Calculated Move

But Andy Beal, vice president of search marketing at WebSourced Inc., said hethinks the similarity was deliberate.

“I believe this is an intentional play on MSN’s part. They want to launch asearch engine with results that, at least initially, are familiar to usersof MSN Search. This will ensure that Microsoft does not alienate its usersby launching a search engine that is radically different,” Beal toldTechNewsWorld.

Bill Gates appears today on the MSN home page, whose redesign makes thesearch engine more apparent, touting the new service. In an open letter, hedescribes the search as “faster, simpler and more organized,” as well as”more precise and powerful.”

Setting Criteria Importance

The search includes advanced tools that allow search customization through a menu with adjustable dials that fine-tune the criteria for which results to pull up first.

MSN also offers a local search — “search near me” — to limit results to ageographic area. Google and Yahoo also offer localized searching.

Competition benefits all search engine users, Beal said. “As the top search engines compete for market share, search engine users will be given greater features and a better product, something that could not have happened if Google had continued unchallenged,” he said.

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