Microsoft Corp.s answer to Web search was unavailable for some users during a portion of Thursday morning, though a spokeswoman said the problem was not widespread and had been fixed by afternoon.
Webloggers first reported encountering server errors as they attempted to test the new search engine. The beta site is running simultaneously with MSNs main search site, which continues to retrieve its results from Yahoo Inc.s Web index.
The MSN Search team reported the technical hiccups on a blog it launched earlier this week. Oshoma Momoh, general manager of MSN Searchs program management, wrote that the team expected to find some problems with the beta and encouraged users to report issues.
"In the process of making our new MSN Search beta broadly available, we experienced some technical difficulties that caused the beta service to function improperly or be unavailable for some users for periods of time," he wrote.
Andy Beal, who runs a popular search blog called Search Engine Lowdown, said that MSN will need to improve its search engines availability before it can compete effectively against search leader Google Inc. He found the beta unavailable for about an hour early on the launch day.
"Whatever servers theyve got it on, they better not be the ones its on for the [full] launch," Beal said.
Microsoft throughout the year has promised to unveil its own search technology within 12 months. Now, following the beta release, MSN officials are saying to expect a complete switchover in 2005.
In other Web search news this week, InfoSpace Inc. updated its Dogpile meta-search service. On Wednesday, it launched Version 5.0, which included a new technology called "IntelliFind."
IntelliFind attempts to decipher a searchers intent based on an analysis of anonymous logs of past searches and clicks, said Melissa Turtel, a senior product manager at Bellevue, Wash.-based InfoSpace. The technology also narrows searches by comparing search terms to a set of keyword-category associations.
Dogpile draws results from leading search engines such as Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Ask Jeeves Inc. With the update, it is adding sources for vertical content. These sources include news content from Topix.net and audio and video results from Singingfish, a search engine owned by America Online Inc.
Dogpile plans to add additional vertical sources in 2005 for such areas as digital cameras, business directories and movies, a spokesman said.