April 15, 2004 5:46 PM PDT

MSN updates searchable news site

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MSN's searchable news site was updated Thursday with more personalization features, following in the newbie footsteps of Amazon.com's search engine.

Last fall, Microsoft's Web portal launched Newsbot, a searchable database of news from thousands of publications, which tailors news for Web surfers based on their reading habits. Still in test form, Newsbot now lets people view their search history and store past material, a feature MSN calls "The Daily Me." Adding a more social flair to the service, "The Daily We" lets people view stories commonly read by other Newsbot visitors with the same taste.

"Personalization is a huge cornerstone for MSN to make search more relevant for consumers," said Karen Redetzki, MSN product manager.

Newsbot is currently only available to people in 10 countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Italy. It can also be accessed from MSN's research Web site, Sandbox, which launched Thursday.

Changes to Newsbot come a day after Amazon introduced its own search engine that features customization tools, A9.com. A9, handled by an independent unit of Amazon, lets people store and view their own search history and find book information from Amazon related to query terms, among other features.

MSN rival Google also recently started testing personalization features for search.

Newsbot, which is expected to launch in the United States later this year, offers a window into MSN's plans for search, a high priority among the top ranks at Microsoft. Last month, the company said it would introduce a next-generation search engine later this year, focused on answering people's questions. Its development is also focused on a news aggregation service for Web logs and a social networking product. Newsbot indicates that personalization tools could play a role in many such search projects.

To address privacy concerns, Redetzki said that MSN lets people delete their search histories, and that stored data is not personally identifiable.

 

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