MSN Search debuts

Microsoft has officially launched its own home grown search engine. The new MSN Search is now the default on Microsoft’s consumer portal in ten languages and 24 markets.

The service now claims to have indexed around five billion pages which is somewhat less than Google’s six billion, all of which are via its own technology. However, Microsoft is saying that its index is refreshed every two days rather than every two weeks. In truth, fast turnaround might be more useful than a more thoroughly exhaustive list of the world’s web pages although only longer term trials will be able to decide.

Elsewhere, the features set is pretty much as it was when Microsoft launched the beta Search in November of last year. These include features such as ‘Search Builder’ a drop down menu which allows searchers to adjust the parameters of the search via radio buttons rather than command line switches used on Google. Microsoft has also added a graphic equaliser type tool which allows a searcher to adjust the weightings of, for example, relevance against timeliness.

Microsoft has also included the option to search its online Encarta Premium for a quick answer to general knowledge types of questions such aS `What is the capital of Uraguay?` MSN will be offering searchers a two hour window of unrestricted access into Encarta.

Whilst the web search is now able to hold its own against the likes of Yahoo! and Google, it still has a way to go to catch up in other areas. The Image bank consistently offers fewer alternatives than either Google or Yahoo! and its news service still lags some way behind. Microsoft says it will be continuing to work on the services.

There is now little to choose between the the big three search engines when it comes to basic or ‘organic’ results of a basic keyword searches. From now on the future will be to attract and more importantly retain searchers not only with the quality of the results but with ease of use and integration with everyday usage.

Whilst Microsoft is still behind in many of these areas it understands what needs to be done. Its new search will be given a much more prominent position when revamps its home page lagter today. it has also been smart in developing an integrated desktop search which takes advantage of its strength in desktop applications and by adding Encarta to the mix plus its easy to use tools, it is looking to capture the consumer as well as the business user.

Until now Microsoft has firmly been in third place when it comes to serch engines with both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer they were ‘stupid’ to allow Yahoo! and Google to run away with such a key business. The company now claims to have invested billions of dollars in its search offering to catch up with the leaders.

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