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MSN Search Officially Switches To Its Own Technology

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It's official. Nearly two years after announcing it would develop its own search technology, MSN Search began feeding the general public results found through its own internally developed search engine. The rollout has happened worldwide, including on the main MSN Search site.

"Now we have our platform in place. We think it's super competitive to what's out there," said MSN Search & Shopping corporate vice president Christopher Payne.

Ousted was long-time search partner Yahoo, in a move that would come as no surprise to that company. While Yahoo no longer supplies the editorial results at MSN Search, paid listings continue to come primarily from Yahoo-owned Overture.

Many, if not most, going to MSN Search over the past week or so have already been exposed to the new technology. Under beta release since last November on a special site, MSN migrated the technology in front of users of its regular sites over the past month.

Now the beta label has come off. MSN Search is firmly in the search wars and hoping that its new technology -- along with a massive new advertising campaign -- will help it gain users.

What's MSN Search have to offer? Largely all the same things we wrote about when the beta launched last year in our article, Microsoft Unveils its New Search Engine - At Last. So be sure to give that a read, if you missed it before.

The core search engine is good and a welcomed new "search voice" in the space. However, it does not make a massive leap beyond what's offered by Google, Yahoo or Ask Jeeves -- the other three major search companies that provide their own voices of what's deemed relevant on the web.

New Since The Beta

Anything new since the beta came out at the end of last year? A few things:

  • Encarta "Direct Answer" expansion: MSN has integrated answers from the Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia since back in 2001. But the beta service expanded the direct answers provided by Encarta to one million topics. The final release takes that up to 1.5 million. Gary Price takes a closer look at this expansion in our Many MSN Direct Answers Now Online article.
  • Encarta Link: You needn't depend on MSN guessing you want Encarta answers. Click on the new Encarta link above the search box, and you can search Encarta directly. MSN Search are also supposed to have free access to 40,000 premium answers.
  • Desktop Search Link: MSN's desktop search tool wasn't out when the MSN Search beta was launched. Now it is available, and those using it and Internet Explorer will see a Desktop link above the search box lets them go between searching the web and searching their own computer with a simple click. Firefox users like me and my fellow SEW editors, sadly, don't get this option.
  • MSN Home Page Redesign: Those visiting the MSN portal site now see a redesigned home page that features a larger, more prominent search box at the top with access to web searching or specialized searching such as for news, images or music. Music results come from the MSN Music site. This option doesn't appear to be offered on the MSN Search site itself
  • Search Results Via Feed/RSS: A new &format=rss parameter added to the end of any search will allow you to receive those search results via RSS. The feature is still very much in testing, and our MSN Search Makes RSS Search Feeds Official article explains it more.
  • Feed Discovery: New tools to help you locate and find feed content from across the web are available, though as part of the MSN portal rather than the MSN Search site itself. Our My MSN Adds Feed Discovery Support article explains more about these.

What's To Come

Now that the big job of getting a crawler-based search engine of its own working on MSN Search is completed, what happens next? I went down a list of possibilities with Payne.

  • Blog Search: MSN has promised to do this, something that no major search engine yet offers. When might it come? Nothing to announce yet, Payne said.
  • New Vertical Searches: What's next to be added to MSN Search in terms of vertical or specialized search? "There are lots of verticals we can pick. We'll base it on what our customer priorities are," Payne said. Perhaps matching the shopping or video search offerings that Google, Yahoo and AOL offer, as well as blog search? "The list is a pretty good summary," he replied.
  • MSN Sponsored Link Program: MSN already offers its own paid links that can be purchased directly, but it is rumored to be working on an expansion of this program that would greatly reduce or eliminate those coming from Overture. Will this happen? If so, when? Once again, nothing to announce, Payne said.

So details on what's to come are sparse. Payne's excitement over having reached this important benchmark is anything but.

"The thing I'm most excited about is that now that we have this platform, we'll be able to innovate on top of it," Payne said. "We're going to have rapidfire innovation, things no one's done yet."

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the It's Official - MSN Search Launches discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

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