MSN Search Preview Back Online

MSN has just released a new preview of its forthcoming new search engine. The first preview was online for about six weeks this summer (see our MSN Search Gets New Look; Microsoft Gets New Search Engine article for more on that). Here’s a rundown on the latest release.

According to MSN, the latest database contains five billion non-spam, non-duplicated pages, up from one billion at launch. That also makes it about a billion pages larger than what Google publicly claims (Yahoo currently does not report figures but should be in the same range as Google).

Some non-indexed pages, such as those blocked from spidering, will have only their URLs and anchor text pointing at them recorded in the database. PDF and MS Office content is also indexed in this release, MSN said. However, these file types are not converted into an HTML for easier viewing by some.

Currently, the preview is only available on the main US-based site. However, the preview should roll out to MSN’s 24 country-specific markets and 11 languages in the near future. (Try this page as an option to see when these go live — it’s where they were listed last time).

Clustering, or what MSN calls “domain collapsing,” is now happening. Two results per site are visible. The second result is indented and a link (set off with a green box) reads, “See more results from…”

Cached versions of pages are available. Cached pages also included the date the page was crawled.

The preview only allows you to view 10 results at a time. Want to jump faster through the results? Tweak the url! Do a search, then look for the first=11 part. Change the number to whatever position you want to jump to, say 208, like this:

Now you’ll jump to the exact place. But keep in mind that you can’t go past the 1,000th result (which is common with MSN’s competitors, as well).

Want to see more than 10 results? Change the portion that says count=10 to a higher number. You can see up to 100.

No advanced interface and preferences page is included in this preview. However, a load testing release last week in the UK did show these type of capabilities and some relevancy sliders, as well.

Spell check is offered, with choices are labeled (in orange), “This may give better results…”

As for query language:

  • The previous uses a default “and” between terms. In other words, it automatically looks for all the words you enter, not just some of them.
  • Boolean NOT appears to work (as does the – sign).
  • Boolean OR appears to work.
  • Nested (search terms) appear to work.
  • You can search using a maximum of 10 terms.
  • Some advanced syntax appears to work, such as site: or domain: commands.
  • When doing link: searches, I got more results when I used http:// in front of the url.

Keep in mind that the preview is a beta test by MSN, so changes may appear at any time. The main MSN Search site itself remains powered by Yahoo’s search technology. MSN has said in the past that it hopes to begin using its own technology there by the end of the year.

Want to comment or discuss? Visit our forum thread: MSN Search Preview 2 Up.

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