Testing the New MSN Search

Chris gives you our overview on the new MSN Search technology. Meanwhile, I’ve been banging away to see how search syntax and other features hold up. Here are some early findings:

+ Microsoft is claiming an index size of greater than 5 billion fully indexed web pages. Google increased their total page count to more than 8 billion pages last night.

+ The new index offers access to many file formats but you’re unable to limit to a specific one. (ie. filetype:)
You’re also unable to limit by:
Anchor Text
Note to MSN: Please add these.

+ I’ve tried several searches using the “near me” option and haven’t found the results to be very useful.

+ Results from the image index are identical to what you’ll find at Picsearch.

+ You can refine your image search results directly from the serp and view either color/black & white. You can also refine by image size.

+ You’ll notice with MSN’s Search Builder that we have another use of “sliders” to modify results. This is what we’ve seen from Yahoo SmartSort and Kayak.com.

+ Boolean? Yes
Implied And
NOT or –
OR or |

+ The new MSN database doesn’t search common stopwords. They are used when searched in a phrase. Compare: A vs. B vs. C

+ You can plug some/any/all of the syntax available via the Search Builder directly into any search box.
Loc: (foo)
Example: Loc:au (Australia)
Language: (code)
Example: Language: fr (French)
Larger number (0-100) places more emphasis on the match between your exact search words and your results.
Greater number (0-100) means more links to the page.
Greater number (0-100) means more likely updated recently.

+ Phil Bradley mentions that nested searches with parethesis work and the database has a 10 term query limit (same as Google)

+ The “Settings” page offers an option to either increase to 3 or decrease to 1 the number of inline results viewable on a results page.

+ NOTE: As of 8.30 AM EST I’m unable to get the following features to work. Opening day jitters? Using define will place a definition from Encarta at the top of the results page along with a link for a more complete definition. Note: This doesn’t work (at least when I tested) for every definable term.
++ The news release mentions that for some “ready reference” (example: What is the capital of Turkey) queries an ANSWER will be presented at the top of the results page with material coming from Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia. Good idea, but not a new one. Ask Jeeves has been offering this with their Smart Answers program for over a year.

+ Since this is a beta release, the flagship site still uses the MSN interface and database that’s been online for some time. here.

+ Remember, it’s only a beta. Google or Yahoo killer? I agree with Chris, it’s not. However, aren’t several large web indexes a good thing from the searcher point of view? Do only one or two automobile manufacturers exist? It’s wonderful to have another unique web index online. The more the merrier. It will be interesting to see the overlap with Google and Yahoo.

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