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Saturday, November 13, 2004

More MSN Blog Posts: Bombs, Feedback, and Local

The MSNSearch Weblog has three more posts. At this rate, they'll have more than Google has had in the seven months since they started their blog in a little over a week. To paraphrase:

Google, Microsoft no longer 'more evil than satan'
The result that put Google and MS in the top ten for evil is no more, thanks to an already updated algorithm. MS says they simply fixed some problems in the algo. Whether the funny result is what prompted the fix, no one will say.

How we’re doing
Microsoft says it has received a lot of feedback, served millions of queries, and updated a few bits of the engine. A lot of people want Newsbot integrated into the engine, and I agree with the idea.

Inside Near Me Search
An explanation of how the "Near Me" search works.

AOL Unveils New Snapshot Service

AOL plans to introduce a new service called Snapshot that provides custom answers to over 2.2 million search queries. The search engine, normally powered by Google results, is programmed to deliver specific AOL content on those searches. For example, a search for a movie title delivers MovieFone listings in your area, with the option to purchase tickets. A search for Doonesbury shows that day's comic. A search for a football player reveals a baseball card-type page with his stats via (screenshot). AOL has no plan to develop its own engine, and would rather develop technology to augment Google's results.

The new MSN Search also delivers some answers triggered by specific questions, such as the birthday of a famous person, via the Encarta Encyclopedia, and that sort of feature has been a part of Jeeves ever since it was launched. Will Google follow the lead of some of its rivals? Probably not, but time will tell.
(via Beta News)

When Are We Getting Our Hotmail Extra Storage?

I've already written a few times about how Hotmail users were promised back in June an upgrade to 250 megabytes of free storage and 2 gigabytes of paid space. As a MSN user, I've been excited abou the upgrade, except it never came. CNet has a story about how Hotmail accounts are "Getting Fatter". Must be everybody's but mine...

Check Out All The MSN Doodles

A reader at SEO Roundtable found all the various background graphics for MSN Search:
Default Style:

Blue Sky:

Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps:





Friday, November 12, 2004

MSN Blog Responds To MSN Bomb And Google Robbing Rumors

I am becoming enormously impressed with the MSNSearch Weblog. It may have been only two days, but have been great at being on top of things. They are clearly reading all the major blogs and following all the rumors, like any smart internet company should. Maybe this will inspire Google and Yahoo to stop using their blogs as Press Release central. Anyway, the post:
MSN Bombs & Rumors

As you would imagine, the launch of a new MSN Search Beta brought lots of conspiracy theories out into the open, and between the alleged flights of black helicopters, I thought I would give you guys some of the facts.
We have the first set of reported MSN Bombs on our Beta. If you search for ‘more evil than satan’  the first result is Google. If you type in ‘evil corporation' (thanks, Jeremy) the first result is Microsoft. The query more evil is a bit more diplomatic showing both companies in the top two. These results come from our algorithms not from humans. One factor our Beta uses in ranking pages is the text of links that point to a page. If many links to a site contain a certain word or phrase, that site will rank highly in a query for that word or phrase. When you see an unusual result for a provocative phrase, this is frequently the cause (and this has happened before). We are constantly refining our ranking algorithms to produce the best, most accurate results, expect these refinements to change.

Another rumor that we would like to discuss is that we are scraping Google’s results to build our index. This is not true. As MSNDude has said we respect robots.txt and will not scrape Google’s results pages. We built our index using our crawler and with the help of people who submitted their site to us.

Keep the questions & feedback (& accusations :-) coming; we’re listening to them and learning.


UPDATE: I didn't even realize it at first, but the first link, the one for the word MSN Bombs, is a link to my own post! I'm very flattered. Google never linked to me before. Wow.

Novell Sues Microsoft For Beating WordPerfect

Citing anticompetitive practices used in the 1990s, Novell sued Microsoft today for capturing the desktop software market from WordPerfect. Novell claims MS withheld important information about Windows, information that Office developers obviously had, in order to make WordPerfect less competitive. Novell clearly waited until after Microsoft paid them $536 million earlier this week to settle litigation regarding NetWare. The two companies had tried to come to an agreement on WordPerfect as well, but when that failed, they settled on NetWare and left WordPerfect to the courts.

Microsoft issued a statement blaiming Novell mismanagement for the failure, and saying Novell had no claim, since it only owned WordPerfect for a short period of time, from 1994 to 1996, and is ths outside the statute of limitations. Microsoft notes that Novell stock fell 15% the day it bought the product for roughly a billion dollars. Also, Novell decided not to release a Windows version, a move that devalued the program to the point where it was eventually sold to Corel for $170 million, one-eighth the purchase price. Microsoft also made a bold move, at least according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, when it claimed that the Windows information is protected as a trade secret, and that it is allowed to withhold that information to protect itself. Microsoft has cash reserves of $64.4 billion.

First "Zero Day" Virus Seems Imminent

Computer Weekly is reporting that the latest version of MyDoom has arrived, this time only two days after an Internet Explorer security was made public by two hackers. What makes this significant is how quickly it happened. Two years ago, when a vulnerability was announced, it took four to six weeks before a virus was taking advantage of it, giving people a chance to protect against it. For the first six months of this year, it was 5.8 business days, said Alfred Huger, senior director of engineering at Symantec. This virus represents a new record, just two days. Experts have long worried they will eventually see a "Zero Day" virus, one that attacks on the day of or even before a flaw is discovered. When that happens, there will be no protection for users, and we could see some serious damage.

BBC Puts The Big Players To The Test

The BBC has compiled reviews and comparisons of the top five search engines. Take a look at what they had to say:

And the verdict?

Google, MSN, and Jeeves get points for being too cluttered (and Yahoo is unceremoniously skewered), MSN is hurt for being unstable. BBC clearly likes engines that provide answers and categories for queries that can mean several things, but it seems fine with Google, since their results are so relevant as to make an "answer engine" unnecessary. BBC gives no verdict, but it seems to pick Jeeves for answering questions and offering classifications of searches. Google loses for having too much information, MSN for being too green, Yahoo for being too messy, and A9 for being too pop-culture centric, and not good with obscurity. Fans of any search engine can find reasons to disagree, but still, a very good roundup.
(via Search Engine Lowdown)

MSN: We Don't Steal From Google

MSNDude, the MSN representative who talks on forums, much like GoogleGuy, showed up on Webmasterworld to talk about all the excitement about the new engine. Among other things, he said this:
Also regarding relevance, there has been some speculation on some online forums about MSNBot using Google search result pages to build our index. Let us set the record straight – that is simply not true. We respect robots.txt and as a result we will not crawl Google’s search result pages.
GoogleGuy responds:
Hey msndude, thanks for the pointers, and thanks for debunking the notion that MSN is crawling via scraping Google's index somehow. I saw an email that someone wrote to us, and it didn't sound like something MSN would do. Glad to hear it from the source though. :)

In case it didn't come across well in my post above, I think it's great that MSN is launching this new look at their technology preview. The search geek in me really enjoys horsing around with a new search engine, and it also helps to raise the awareness of how important search is in everyday life these days.
Am I the only person who finds the idea of a MSNDude / GoogleGuy team-up intriguing?

Anyway, the point is that there has been some speculation that MSN got some of their search results from Google, as though Microsoft's crawler wasn't going around the web like crazy. RustyBrick at Search Engine Roundtable doesn't think its true, and brings in a Search Engine Watch forum post by Danny Sullivan that shows why someone would make that mistaken assumption.

Microsoft To Expand India Facilities

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be in Hyderabad, India next week to break ground on a new project that willl double the size of its India facilities. This comes just after MS laid off some technical workers in its main Redmond facility. Microsoft spokeswoman Tami Begasse said the company is planning on expanding its Seattle workforce, noting the purchase of several new buildings and plans to hire 3,000 more workers by June 30.

The company is starting construction on a 250,000 square foot facility, that will double its India workforce from 1,600 to 3,200 employees by 2006. The building in Hederabad are being designed to resemble the main Redmond campus.

I Thought You Were Supposed To Trademark Excel!

Apparently, Microsoft forgot to file for a trademark for Excel, the spreadsheer program it has sold for 19 years. Well, getting sick of companies creating software with Excel in the name that seemes affiliated with MS, they filed for one in April to beat TurboExcel. Microsoft had told Sawysoft, the company which publishes the software, to cease-and-decist using the name, and Sawysoft discovered MS had no claim. I can see why it would they would decide not to register it, since excel is a regular word, but it was probably a bad idea. I'm sure they registered "Word", didn't they?

What's Coming In Office 12 (2006)

The Unofficial Microsoft Weblog points to a Microsoft Watch article about the new features expected for Office 12, coming in 2006. Anonymous sources say the betas are scheduled for August and December of next year, with the "street" release coming on July 17, 2006. Nothing revolutionary mentioned in the article, unless you like acronyms (CMS, ECS, IFS, and SPS will all feature improvements). I guess this is probably the right time to mention that InsideMicrosoft, like its sister site InsideGoogle, is more consumer-oriented than geek oriented. Don't worry, though, the links will still get into the boring stuff.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Microsoft Predicts It Will Double Search Revenue In Five Years

MSN Search expects its ad revenue to double from its current $360 million a year, says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Looks like MS isn't looking at MSN Search as a Google killer, but as a solid cash generator. Is this a sign of smarter, gentler business from the Redmond giant?

Man Arrested For Stealing Microsoft Source Code

A 23-year old Connecticut man was charged with stealing source code for Windows NT and Windows 2000 back in February. The man, William Genovese, claims he was just trying to sell a copy for $20 that he downloaded off a peer-to-peer network from his website, and that he was not involved in the theft. Evidence when the code was stolen pointed to Mainsoft, a developer of MS tools for Unix. Genovese explains that all he did was offer, as a joke to counter the Bit Torrent links he was on other sites, the code to anyone who offered a PayPal donation. Genovese never realized the offer was coming from a Microsoft-hired security firm. Ouch. Now he faces a charge that he violated the 1996 Economic Espionage Act. It certainly won't help Genovese that his online profile says his profession is a "hacking bum" and his interests include "getting arrested".

InsideMicrosoft? Maybe, Maybe... Why Not?

This is the post that inspired this blog. Consider it a marker. Everything before this is from InsideGoogle, everything after is original content.

From InsideGoogle:

Raghu says:
Nathan from InsideGoogle has been following with this development every minute. I felt like it has become InsideMicrosoft since last night. Anyway, in his latest post, he listed out all local MSN search betas. I'm not into Yahoo for searching, let alone Microsoft. I just want to Google around.
Ha! Nice. Not to worry, Google still occupies much of my thoughts. MSN is just the big news. Just to be sure, I picked up just in case. Anyone want to help me run it? You'll get instant readership. I could also use assistance adding MSN-related blogs to my Blogroll.

MSN Didn't Waste Any Time

Wow. Google products almost never have ads when in beta. MSN Search has ads on day one, as the picture from a search for Google shows. The ads look slightly different from the results, and have the words "SPONSORED SITES" way off to the right. The ads are delivered by Overture. The same ads appear on the bottom of the page. MSN also now shows inline News results.

Search Completes A Circle: The First MSN Bomb

Back in 1999, what is possibly the first ever Google Bomb is discovered. As recorded by Danny Sullivan in Search Engine Watch on November 1, 1999, a search for "more evil than satan himself" produced as a number one result Today, day one of MSN Search, we have our first MSN bomb: more evil than satan. If the result changes, here's a link to the site that is the number one result. My, the more things change...
(via Google Blogoscoped)

InsideGoogle: Details Emerge On Google's Kirkland Office

Some details on Google's new small offices, which will be right near Microsoft's, and could be used to recruit MS talent.

MSN Search Blog Comments On Uptime And Compatibility Problems

The new MSNsearch WebLog has its third post today. I'm impressed! Keep up the frequency.
MSN Search Beta Availability Update
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. We're working through these issues one by one and you should see service availability and quality improve soon if not already. We apologize for any inconvenience.

We expected to find some problems in the beta, and we expect there will also be times when we limit service availability for maintenance purposes. We want to find those problems in order to help us build a higher quality product, and we appreciate your help in doing this.

A few other notes:

1) Several people have reported problems with the search service and with this blog that appear to be browser compatibility issues with FireFox. We're working on broad browser support and have done some specific testing in this area, but it's clear more is needed. Thank you for the reports.

2) When reporting issues, please include as much detailed information as you can in your report so that we can reproduce and fix the bug. E.g. for browser errors, tell us which type of browser, the version number, and information on any proxy you're using. For relevance problems, tell us the exact query you entered, any other special settings you're using, e.g. via search builder, and the resulting URL you expected to see.

3) The "Help us Improve" link at the bottom of the results page is an easy way to give us feedback.


Will we actually see proper Firefox support? I doubt it, but anything's possible. Why just yesterday I saw a hog reach a record altitude...

MSN Search Beta Finally Works!

After 12 hours of clicking "refresh" and "search", I am finally able to access MSN Search. If you've been waiting, now's your chance to take a test drive. Searching for "InsideGoogle" on MSN turns up 2.421 results, while on Google it shows 14,500. Ever wonder why its InsideGoogle and not Inside Google? Because the term InsideGoogle had six results when I started this blog, and I could easily search for every page that every mentions me. Not only does Google have more of those pages, but Microsoft doesn't list me as the top result for a word I invented! Where do I rank? I haven't found me yet. I am listed, but only my main page and 18 other pages. They still haven't indexed most of the 600+ inner pages. I don't know how MSN's default algorithm ranks pages, but if it can't figure out that the site in which every page has that word in the title, and that every single other page on the internet which has that word is linking to it, that it should be the number one result for that word, then it still needs a bit of work. I don't anticipate getting the kind of traffic I get from Google from MSN, not until they fix their ranking algorithm to have basic sense of how to determine the nexus of a linking pattern. Still, it's speed is decent, and I like the Search Builder.

A List Of All The MSN Search Beta URLs

US - EN:
US - ES:
Belgium - FR:
Belgium - NL:
Canada - EN:
Canada - FR:
New Zealand:
South Africa:
Switzerland - DE:
Switzerland - FR:

Plus, the team finally has a blog!
All this put together by Chris Pirillo, via Scoble, via Search Engine Lowdown.

MSN Search Blog Announces The Release

From the new MSN Search Blog:

On behalf of the MSN Search team I'm very pleased to announce that we've begun the worldwide rollout of our new algorithmic search service Beta release. I invite you to check it out at and send us feedback via the "help us improve" links. You can identify the Beta version by the text "Search (beta)" next to the MSN butterfly logo.

This is an update of the service we started building in early 2003. We released it as a "Technology Preview" in July this year and more recently in early October at to solicit early feedback. I want to convey a big thank you to all who sent bug reports and feedback on the tech preview... the feedback loop really helped, we learned a lot, and we made a number of changes in response to your suggestions. I hope you're happy with the results.

If you want to engage in general discussion on the new search service please visit our newsgroup at

We know still have a lot of work left to do. We'll keep you updated here as we make progress.


Oshoma Momoh
General Manager, MSN Search Program Management

And yes, the site is finally up and running. Go and check it out!

Chatter Spreading On MSN Search

Chris Sherman at Search Engine Watch has a major write up on MSN. Among the tidbits he notes that in addition to using Encarta to answer factual queries, MSN uses MSN Music for music-related queries. Presumably, all of Microsoft's services (and there are a lot) are being rolled into the search engine.

The engine's Search Builder means for the first time, inexperienced users can be expected to use advanced features, since they are just so much more accessible than in any other engine. The sliders represent the coolest new feature, allowing you to refine according to the exactness of matches, page popularity, and freshness, all at once, instantly. Currently, MSN Search uses Picsearch for image results, which Chris says is better than Google's (which has taken some knocks lately when it was disclosed that Google Images is updated only twice a year), but not as good as Yahoo's. You can get 10, 15, 30, 50, up to 100 results per page, plus you can activate safe search to avoid explicit results. You can also choose how results from the same site are grouped, the first time I've ever heard of an engine offering that sort of feature.

Chris confirms ME2, the Microsoft desktop search product, is coming soon, and he's very impressed with it. Chris's final word: MSN Search is not a Google killer, but it represents a great base to begin the fight against the search leader.
Far from being a Google killer, MSN Search is instead a welcome new alternative for searchers, and a catalyst for sparking further improvements and innovations at other services. It's going to be a fun couple of years.
Also, Greg Linden notes that, just like I joked a few hours ago, Microsoft did indeed change their press release at the last minute in response to Google's increase in its index from 4 to 8 billion. The original read:
The largest index of information. More than 5 billion web documents – larger than any web indexes reported today.
While the final version said:
Vast index of information. The MSN Search index of more than 5 billion Web documents is one of the largest indexes offered today.

PC Magazine Gives MSN Search 3 1/2 Stars

PC Magazine already has a detailed review of the new MSN Search, giving it . It calls it a worthy challenger to Google, describes it as answer-oriented, including Encarta results, and notes that some features don't work yet, while others only work in IE. They have a slideshow presentation of the new engine, which is your only way to see it at this hour, since the site still isn't functional. Here's the first MSN Doodle:

MSN Search Launches

John Battelle has it first, and MSN Search is here. The page is not available yet, but I'll keep updating as things come in.

UPDATE: John says that the engine won't be rolled into MSN till sometime in the first half of 2005. The engine is supposed to be currently running either here or here, but so far the second site is down and the first shows the old engine, so I assume the second will start working soon.

MSN Search also launched a blog, to compete with Google's and Yahoo's. So far there is just a "hey there" post. I added the blog's RSS feed to Bloglines, and discovered a search engine integrated into the feed. What an original idea, and a great way to push the new engine! This is the engine, as it appears in the feed reader:

As the below screenshot shows, the interface is similar to the leaked preview we saw a few weeks back, down to the Search Builder feature. There are 5 billion pages indexed, just like we said an hour ago, and a type of local search called "Search Near Me".

The press release says that the engine is already available in 26 markets and 11 languages, and is supposed to be at, although it's still not there yet. The Tech Preview site says "The MSN Search Technology Preview is currently unavailable. The site may be down for a short while due to scheduled maintenance. Please try again later."