MSN to Add Blog, Custom News Searches

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-03-29 Print this article Print

UPDATED: Microsoft's Internet division says two Web search services —Blogbot and Newsbot—will launch later this year and let users more easily find Weblogs and news stories. Both are planned ahead of M

Microsoft Corp.s MSN division laid out more of its Web search plans Friday, saying it will launch separate Weblog search and news search services later this year. The two services—MSN Newsbot for news and MSN Blogbot for blogs—will likely come out ahead of MSNs introduction later this year of its own algorithmic Web search engine to compete with Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., said Karen Redezki, an MSN product manager. MSN in June began to spider Web pages with its separate MSNBot crawler. The additional search plans were revealed a day after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer conceded that Microsoft made a mistake in not investing earlier and more aggressively in its own search technology. MSN currently receives Web search results through Yahoo Inc.s newly revamped search engine.
Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of the MSN Information Services and Merchant Platform division, offered early details of new search services during the companys Strategic Account Summit in Redmond, Wash.
MSN Blogbot and MSN Newsbot are not Web crawlers themselves, an MSN spokeswoman clarified Monday. Instead, MSN taps into Moreover Technologies Inc.s aggregation of Web news and blogs for the new services, she said. Mehdis presentation was among the first times Microsoft has discussed plans for blog search, and Redezki said it will differentiate MSN from other top search and portal sites that so far have not focused on search exclusively for blogs. Google, though, is well-known for including blogs in its Web search index, and dozens of blog-specific search sites exist. Among the best-known are Technorati Inc. and Feedster LLC, which also focus on indexing Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds. Yahoo also has included RSS feeds in its Web search results. "Its exciting for us to venture into this field because blogging has really taken off," Redezki said. Next week, Microsoft is holding a symposium to discuss the future of a whole range of social computing technologies, including blogging. Newsbot, which first went into beta in November in four countries, is now in beta in 10 countries outside the United States, Redezki said. She said she expects a U.S. beta soon but could not specify when that would occur. Blogbot remains in alpha development but also should launch a beta at the same time as Newsbots U.S. beta. Newsbot not only gathers news sources from the Web like Google News or Yahoo News but also personalizes and customizes the way news is displayed based on the users past behavior, Redezki said. The personalization is based on Web cookies. "It not only is recommending news links based on what others are searching for, but it is going to learn from what you like as well," she said. Click here to read more about recent additions to Yahoos news search. Both of the new search services eventually will be integrated into MSN Search overall as the new Web search engine is launched, Redezki said. She said MSN is still working on how and when they would be integrated. Further out, MSN is developing a search service that lets users ask questions in natural language to retrieve specific facts as answers. Called MSN Answerbot, it also will learn from the past questions to refine its results, Redezki said. No timing for Answerbot was released, and Redezki said it is likely at least three years out. "Consumers today are not finding the answers to their questions to their satisfaction, no matter what search engine theyre using," she said. "So, we want to launch these bots to answer questions with more relevancy." Editors Note: This story was updated to include a clarification from Microsoft about the Web crawler technology used for the search services. Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at for the latest news, reviews, analysis and opinion about productivity and business solutions.
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Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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