Microsoft relaunched its search engine, as part of a strategy to win back lost ground. The stage is now set for a battle royale between Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.
The software maker replaced the search page on its MSN Web site with a cleaner and simpler design that resembles that of market leader Google Inc. For now, Microsoft will continue to rely on Yahoo Inc. technology for its search results and related text ads.
But also starting today, Microsoft is releasing a trial version of its own search technology. That trial, contained on a separate Web site, offers a much-awaited glimpse at the software giant’s expensive, yearlong effort to create a Web-search engine to rival those of Google and Yahoo. By the end of the year, Microsoft plans to replace Yahoo’s non-advertising technology on its site with its own.
The twin announcements are important milestones in Microsoft’s ambition to become a major player in search technology, increasingly seen as central to online advertising, commerce and communication. The company won’t disclose how much money it is devoting to this effort overall, but puts a $100 million price tag on the new MSN search site alone.
The company is making the early trial version of its own search engine available on MSN’s research “Sandbox” Web site, with the goal of soliciting feedback from Web site owners and others. That engine will draw its search results from around one billion documents on the Web — a fraction of the total reached by Google and Yahoo. Mr. Mehdi says MSN won’t shift to Microsoft’s own search results until they are at least as good as those from the Yahoo technology it licenses.
Washington Post adds:
“This is a huge announcement for the search engine industry as a whole,” said Andy Beal, vice president of WebSourced Inc.’s KeywordRanking.com, a search engine marketing firm. “Microsoft finally getting involved with search is going to send shock waves through the entire industry. Google has already seen the competition Yahoo is putting up. With Microsoft and their billions of dollars entering the arena, Google is going to be fighting attacks from two sides.”
Analysts said today’s release of the test version of Microsoft’s own search algorithm would prove far more important, in the long run, than what they termed the largely cosmetic changes it is making to its MSN search site. Emulating Google, the site has a clean, uncluttered feel.
Danny Sullivan has more analysis.