January 31, 2005 8:10 PM PST

Microsoft kicks off search effort

Microsoft on Monday replaced Yahoo's search technology with its own homespun software and will kick off a huge advertising campaign to supplant Google in consumers' hearts.

As expected, MSN, a unit of the software giant, has taken its Web search technology out of the laboratory, and placed it on MSN's newly redesigned home page in 25 countries. Two and a half years in the making, MSN Search will now be the focal point of the updated, lighter-weight site; and it is the subject of Microsoft's newest ad campaign, which includes television, print, Internet and outdoor promotions.

MSN Search Vice President Christopher Payne would not disclose ad spending, but he estimated that 90 percent of Americans, as well as U.K. and Japanese residents, will encounter the campaign. TV ads, for example, will run during the Super Bowl, the Oscars and the Grammys. "Oh, you're going to notice it," he said.

Click to view

With the ads and the new site, Microsoft will begin to flex its powerful marketing muscle in the competition to woo Web searchers and advertisers away from reigning champ Google. Though Google has ballooned in power over the last five years, the company has already started to see its search lead shrink as Yahoo and others have entered its market. Now that Microsoft is launching its own technology, the software giant will be working hard to outpace rivals, using its Internet Explorer browser and its desktop dominance to make a lasting impression.

"They'll be trying to get people to say "I MSN Search'ed it'," said Danny Sullivan, an industry expert, referring to the commonly mentioned practice of "Googling" something or someone.

The change also marks the beginning of a likely end for MSN's relationship with rival Yahoo. Yahoo's Inktomi search technology has powered MSN for more than three years, and its commercial subsidiary Overture Services has provided targeted text ads for several years, too. MSN will continue to license Yahoo search technology for its Korean and Japanese sites, until later this year. MSN's Payne would not comment on any plans to replace Overture, but their contract runs out in 2006. Also, MSN has made a greater push to sell sponsored listings itself.

Search-related advertising is the impetus for the development and marketing frenzy among portals. This year, analysts expect commercial search sales to reach about $5 billion. And while MSN commands 10 percent or more of that market--$500 million--it will be reaching for a greater piece of the pie if it can lure more people to its search engine.

Google is still at the top of the heap, but its lead is shrinking. In December 2004, Google served about 34.7 percent of the market, down 0.3 percent from the previous period in 2003, according to ComScore Networks. During the same period, Yahoo jumped from serving 27 percent of the market to 31.9 percent. And MSN added a point to its position, going from 15.4 percent to 16.3 percent from December to December.

Key to MSN's strategy to win over the Web population is providing "answers" to queries, rather than millions of links, Payne said. While Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Google and smaller sites like Answers.com have sought to fill in search requests with answers to questions on the weather, entertainment and package tracking, MSN believes it can do one better with its encyclopedia software Encarta.

MSN will newly make 40,000 articles available free with its search service, in addition to 1.5 million other facts contained in Encarta. It will also play up streaming music, local search called "near me," and a newly added RSS feature that lets third parties syndicate its results.

All in all, the project has cost Microsoft well more than $100 million, Payne said, and the company still sees this as only a first step.

"What we're most excited about is now we've got this platform and we can do rapid-fire improvements," Payne said. "You should expect a ton of improvements from us."


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
new msn search sucks big time
Right after i found out about it i went to test it if it can help me with my problem. i entered: gateway "usb keyboard" problem. First two results were shopping offers! and I am not talking about advertisment at top of the page! Results have no relevance!!! Searched words are not even close to each other on result pages. Coplet mess. 0 out of 10 not even 1 for effort.
Posted by Not Bugged (195 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what will be the mile long url?
msn.com/search ? nope

search.msn.com ? nope

long gibberish string that has no resemblance to "MSN Search" ? CORRECT!!

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.imagine-msn.com/search/tour/moreprecise.aspx" target="_newWindow">http://www.imagine-msn.com/search/tour/moreprecise.aspx</a>

when will MSFT learn that the name is half the marketing.

Google - noun and verb

Yahoo- same.
Posted by Lite Rocker (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OK, the search powers MSN... lets give it a second of thought... Just one second now... How about www.msn.com
Imagine that! There it is.

Now, having toyed with it for a few minutes, I'm rather unimpressed.
Posted by catchall (245 comments )
Link Flag
Works for me
search.msn.com works for me. Maybe you should do a search on configuring DNS.
Posted by (79 comments )
Link Flag
Some Observations
I just got back from a test drive with the new MSN search. The first thing I notice is that the interface is still almost identical to that of Yahoo!'s. Even down to the rectangle with a triangle on the bottom that points to the "Web" search selection.

Moving along, a search in Google, Yahoo!, and MSN for "2005 Corvette" yielded some interesting results. Starting with the reigning champ, Google listed two websites (with one subsite each) before getting to www.chevrolet.com/corvette, one of which was the museum and the other of which was a forum. Prices and sales are on the side, which is nice.

By my own admission, I don't use Yahoo!, but figured I would for comparison. Yahoo! gives me the option to try other searches in the same category, such as "2005 corvette pictures, 2005 chevrolet corvette, 2005 corvette z06," which is a nice touch (especially the Z06 one - ROWR!). Sponsored results are all over the page, though, on the top - there are three - and the side - there are eight. As usual, these deal primarily with shopping, and if I were in the market, I'm sure I would find these useful. I'm not sure what the "Yahoo! Shortcut" is, but it seems to be another sponsored link. Right below that, the first true search result, is the Corvette homepage. So Yahoo! nails it in one (kinda).

Finally, there's MSN. Three sponsored links right up front, five on the side. corvetteforum.com comes up first on the results list, followed by the homepage. Although changing the language settings bumps it down to third, behind an image gallery.

So my conclusions? I don't have any compelling reason to prefer either of the three, so I'll probably just keep doing what I've been doing for the last 8 or so years: googling. As far as brand-loyalty goes, though, I don't have any. Microsoft has yet to wow me, though. How about a 3D representation of the search results in connected bubbles? That would be cool.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MSN Search This
So, yeah, MSN wants our lexicon to change from googling to MSN Searching. That will happen.

Or, based on their URL: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.imagine-msn.com/search/tour/moreprecise.aspx" target="_newWindow">http://www.imagine-msn.com/search/tour/moreprecise.aspx</a>

Instead of saying, "I googled your name, we can say:
Hey, "let me imagine msn search tour more precised your name"
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It gives me the creeps
First, you go to msn.com and there is Gates puss grinning at you. Then, you get totally bogus search results, all the while wondering how much info MS has gathered about what you are doing. I'll stick with google, thanks.
Posted by unixrules (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks for the laugh, I needed that.

Gates' puss... That's classic.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
Fate has a way of getting back at MS, somebody just cracked their DRM....
This guy's blog indicates people in Japan have found a way to crack Microsoft's DRM software wide open.
Chris Lanier's Blog:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://msmvps.com/chrisl/archive/2005/01/31/34499.aspx" target="_newWindow">http://msmvps.com/chrisl/archive/2005/01/31/34499.aspx</a>

Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where is the LINK, folks?
I can't believe that News.com could publish an article
about a major website and not include a clickable link to that

Nice going, folks! You apparently really understand the web!
Posted by dznr (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
First link in story is to MSN, where search is featured
The very first link in the story goes to MSN (www.msn.com), and the new search is prominently featured on that page.

Thanks for reading.

John Roberts
CNET News.com product development
Posted by pencoyd (82 comments )
Link Flag
Looks Like Yahoo!
Search results aside, you would think having a product two years
in the making would give MS enough time to think of their
own design. The new home page design is a copy of Yahoo's.
Well at least we now know MS just doesn't copy Apple, but any
successful company... Look out Starbucks your next.

I'll take a Microsoft Latte Home Edition Longhorn Expresso
GrandeĀ®, hold the Desktop Search please!
Posted by ca5ter (176 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Interesting examples on where MSN breaks down...a joke on AOL?
Microsoft just released its new search engine on msn.com. I was interested to see what ad deals it had (are they still working with Yahoo?). Turns out their premier ads are MSN ads but their secondary ads are still Overture (Yahoo). But there's obviously still some glitches in the search itself. Try typing in "mortgage" (my generic test word for keyword advertising) on msn.com. Maybe by the time you try, they'll have fixed it, but for now, the first non-advertiser link is titled "Checking Connection Speed" which is a pre-page spiders find on www.aol.com. The link goes to AOL's homepage. Is this a Microsoft joke on the fact that AOL has mortgaged anything it ever used to be? Link number two is appropriately www.sss-mortgage.com.

Interesting note: this only appears when I search through an American computer. My direct connection with a French IP address doesn't show AOL. It also doesn't show any ads, MSN or Overture.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Try it again
Take off your 'I Hate MS' hat &#38; try it again. Yes, the first two are shopping links (which many search portals serve up), but the first two 'regular links' point to Gateway. Of the first 10 regular links, 4 point to a Gateway domain. Do the same search on Google and only the first of 10 points to Gateway.

Bash MS all you want, but at least engage your brain first.
Posted by orphu (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
[i]"Now that Microsoft is launching its own technology, the software giant will be working hard to outpace rivals, using its Internet Explorer browser and its desktop dominance to make a lasting impression."[/i]

Smell an anti-trust lawsuit anyone?
Posted by SmokieUK (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.