Why the Buzz Over MSN Search Beta?

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-02-04 Print this article Print

Despite speculation of its launch, the test of search relevancy and site UI tweaks has been ongoing since the fall, MSN says.

Search engine message boards and Weblogs are aflutter with news of a new MSN Search beta, but officials at Microsoft Corp.s Internet division say the beta test is nothing new. MSN began a beta test of its Web search site early in the fall and has targeted less than 4 percent of MSN Search users to be automtically directed to the test site, an MSN spokeswoman said on Tuesday. The beta focuses on tweaks to the relevancy ranking of results and on minor changes in the sites user interface but does not include a new algorithmic search engine, the spokeswoman said. MSN has been testing its own Web crawler and is widely expected to switch at some point to its own search engine technology as Microsoft seeks to move more aggressively into search. In June, MSN posted a Web site about the crawler, called MSNBot, and Web sites began noticing it crawling their sites.
But MSN officials said that the MSN Search beta and the MSNBot project are not directly related and that the beta is not an indication of MSNs eventual direction with its search engine.
MSN has been making shifts in its search site in recent months. In mid-January it dropped LookSmart Ltd.s paid inclusion listings from the site. However, it agreed in October to continue using Overture Services Inc.s paid placement listings despite search competitor Yahoo Inc.s acquisition of Overture earlier in 2003.
Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, 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 eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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