Microsoft Launches New MSN Search

The beta tag has been removed and Microsoft's revamped MSN Search engine has officially gone live. Two years in the making, the new search has been built from the ground up and touts a simplified interface promising more-relevant results, instant answers to questions, as well as a bevy of search tools.

Redmond developers began working from scratch on the new search engine in March 2003 through a collaboration with Microsoft Research. According to Ken Moss, general manager of MSN Search Development and Testing, it has been a long process to bring Microsoft's new search to fruition.

"While we weren't fully staffed, we had deep ties to Microsoft Research," said Moss, "so there were a lot of experts we could pull into the process in areas like Web crawling, index serving and measuring relevance. It's been a phenomenal partnership, and we wouldn't be shipping now without their help."

The new MSN Search was first unveiled in beta form last November in order to solicit feedback from users. Microsoft took the beta engine live on MSN.com for a final test in late January.

"I can't emphasize enough how good I feel about the dialogue we've engaged in with customers," said Oshoma Momoh, general manager for program management within MSN Search. "That's really helped us create a new version of MSN Search that goes a step beyond other search engines."

In order to differentiate itself from rivals such as Google, Microsoft has focused its efforts on providing answers to specific questions, rather than just links. MSN Search uses encyclopedia information from Microsoft Encarta, along with MSN Music content to directly respond to search queries.

Results are what define the success of a search engine, and Microsoft knew it had to build a Web crawler capable of indexing the far reaches of the Internet. Dubbed "MSNbot," Microsoft's crawler was recently upgraded from version 0.3 to 1.0, and has indexed a total of 5 billion Web documents.

"Our first index had exactly 24," explained MSN's Moss. "Then we built it up to 500. Then 2,000. Then we added more code to get to 100,000. By summer 2003, we were up to 500 million documents, and our Web crawler was better than our competitors' by a good margin."

Now that it's launched, Microsoft will soon kick off a far-reaching marketing campaign to promote MSN Search in 25 countries. The company has planned television spots for the Super Bowl and the Oscars, alongside print and Internet ads, with the hopes of chipping away at Google's hold on 60 percent of the search market.

Microsoft isn't shy about its intentions; by delving into its deep pockets, the company says it expects the MSN Search campaign to reach at least 90 percent of consumers in the United States alone.

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