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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Microsoft revamps its web search
MSN search page
The homepage is a lot cleaner too
Microsoft has given its search service a make-over as part of a big upgrade.

Although still powered by Yahoo technology, it has been "cleaned-up" so paid-for results do not automatically appear when users type in a query.

This brings the service closer to the kind of free, non-commercial results that rivals like Google generate.

Currently, Google and Yahoo dominate web searching. But Microsoft also says it plans to edge in with its own search engine technology later this year.

The make-over also means the search homepage is much less cluttered, and results arrive faster, according to Microsoft.

It says its much larger search upgrade plans, of which the tweaks are a part, are costing $100m (55m) in research and development, as well as lost ad revenue.

Bigger plans

The bigger upgrade, currently in its testing stages, would mean it no longer licenses the technology that powers MSN Search from Yahoo!.

Instead, Microsoft says, it will launch a fully-fledged search engine which will use its own algorithms to help web users find what they want, instead of presenting them with search results which third parties have paid for.

This is an important move, because paid-for search results have always been a contentious issue. Microsoft has come under criticism for using such methods because web users feel they do not get an unbiased service.

Google and Yahoo! searches
Google dominates the search market: Yahoo is second
It is thought that Microsoft's move away from such paid-for results will force Yahoo! to revisit its own policy on results too.

Net search service Ask Jeeves announced last week it would phase out paid-for results.

Microsoft said the upgrade would mean results would be up to 50% more accurate than before.

The full search engine is expected to launch later this year, according to Microsoft chief Bill Gates.

With 350m global users, MSN is keen to discourage them from using other search facilities.

But there is a lot of ground to gain, because 80% of daily global net searches are currently performed on Google. It has been so successful, it is preparing for its initial public offering later this year.

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17 Mar 04  |  Technology


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