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    Subject: New MSN search engine: How good is it? Tuesday 23.11.2004
    New MSN search engine: How good is it?

    If you have an online business or you just use Internet as one of your marketing tools, you know that how important are the search engines in your quest to get more targeted visitors to your website. The changes in search engine field can have unexpected outcome for your online endeavors. That’s why it is important to be well-informed on impending progress in this sphere.

    Microsoft has recently come out with the latest beta version of its much touted search engine. Supported by 5 billion indexed pages, it is poised to become one of the most powerful search engines in the market. Right now MSN is using Yahoo provided search results for queries done through its search page, which it’s planning to change somewhere in early next year with its own. You can check out the search engine at http://beta.search.msn.com .

    Google’s immense success and profitable business model enticed Microsoft and others to look into lucrative search engine market seriously. Amazon, for example, has recently launched its web search site A9.com. Today, Google carries out almost 50 percent of all searches on the Internet. Yahoo with 24 percent of the market share is trailing in a distant second place. MSN with 14 percent lags far behind from the competitors – a situation, which won’t be very easy to change.

    However, Microsoft has a long history of copying booming products; make their replicas some times, arguably, better then the originals, and clinch larger portion of the market shares. Microsoft has successfully done this to Borland’s dominance of programming languages in the early days. The list of victims continued with once utterly popular word processor –WordPerfect, market dominant spreadsheet – Lotus 1-2-3, Novell’s Netware and finally Netscape. Since 90 percents of all personal computers run on Windows, Microsoft gets an extra edge against its competitors, which it’s capable of exploiting very effectively.

    What is new in MSN search?

    This version of MSN search incorporated several interesting features, which other search engines are lacking at this moment.

    Direct answers to plain language factual searches

    Unlike Google or Yahoo, Askjeeves has better ability to find answers to direct plain language searches. MSN search has taken this one step further by adding Microsoft's Encarta reference tools to its features. Ask, what is the capital of Russia? You will get the right answer at the beginning of the result page. Questions like “What is the size of a Blue whale?” also brings in exact answer. No doubt, students will love this feature as it makes a lot easier for them to get specific answers to the questions related to facts and figures.

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    Near me

    Microsoft's new search engine includes a ''near me'' button that helps users find websites for a given location. In this release, this works only in United States.

    Once you press this button MSN search figures out where are you located using your computer’s IP address. However, this can be easily superseded by changing setting preferences. This is important if you are located in New York and looking for something near Boston.

    Search Builder

    In other search engines, if you would like to customize your search you have to use advance search options from a separate page. MSN search has made it a lot easier for average users by adding the ability of customization right on the search box.

    Once you click on the Search Builder from the link right underneath of the search box a drop down menu will open. Initially, the menu might look a little confusing; with little patience you will be able to use available great features easily.

    The tool “search terms” allows you to add Boolean search options. Site/ Domain tool is used for limiting a search to specific site or domain, or excluding them from your query. “Links to” tool helps you make your query within the sites linked to a specific site. Country/ region and language options are required to make geography or language specific searches.

    The best option from this group of features is the “Result Ranking”. This option allows you to refine searches and give you a better control over the search result by using a set of three bars. By sliding the bars up and down you choose whether you want to see more of exact match or approximate match, more popular or less popular, static or dynamic pages as search results. You can generate an impressive range of results for a single query thanks to this option. This could be very useful for some types of searches. For example: if you are looking for news based pages, you might prefer to choose more dynamic pages rather than static ones.

    Preference setting

    Most notable options on the setting page are “Safe Search” – ability to filter out sexually explicit images and texts, and ability to fix the number of results displayed from one particular site.

    Relevancy

    Many reviewers claim that if you compare the search results with Google, MSN search engine “falls short” in relevancy. However, my results showed otherwise.

    I ran a search on the phrase “trade leads”. The results from both the search engines were very relevant. The only difference in MSN I noticed is our http://trade-leads.rusbiz.com managed to turn up on the first page. But, a search on the word “e-catalog” was brought better – more relevant – results on MSN then Google. This time too I was happy to see http://e-catalog.rusbiz.com on the first page of MSN search results.

    Conclusion

    If you consider all the new features of MSN that Google does not have yet, its ability to cover natural language queries, quality level and relevance of results, ability to refine searches, there is no doubt that MSN search engine is as good as Google.

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