Saturday, 13 November 2004

MSN launched the new beta version of their new search engine the other day, and I finally got around to playing around with it just a bit. There's some cool stuff in there. It seems to have a decent catalog of stuff to search through, although (no surprise here) it's not as complete as Google's directory. I appreciate the clean layout - it's very readable.

I like the new search interface, and the Search Builder tool (available from any search entry box) let's you do advanced searches without having to be a complete geek - nice for typical end users.

There are a few things it has that Google doesn't, though.

For example, it seems to understand when I ask questions in context. Or at least it provides answers to some questions - typically factual ones. Nice for high-school research projects and the like, or for trivia lookups. 

For example, I tried searching for the term "What is the population of the United States?"  Google provided some useful and well-chosen links to web sites (Census Bureau, etc.), but MSN Search came up with something even better - the actual answer to my question (click the image to perform the search yourself):

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

I also found if I searched for the population of Oregon or other locations, it worked just as well.

Population, well that's cool. What about other facts? I searched for "Exports of the United States" and got this:

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

Searching for other country's/states exports and populations and values yielded similar results.

And it's not just social studies - physical sciences, too:

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

I'll have to play around with what MSN search provides answers for - I am sure I just scratched the surface.

Google's popular "Calculator" functionality has long been touted as useful, and it looks like MSN has similar capabilities. One subtle difference, though, is that Google Calculator returns a page with just the calculator results followed by a link to perform the web search, where MSN returns the answer plus the web search results lower on the same page:

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

(click image to perform the search in your browser)

Also not surprising are the links provided to "Encarta Answers," since that appears to be the source of the MSN Search "answers" content.

Cool stuff. I have seen the MSN search indexing my web sites in my stats logs, and it looks like they've done a pretty good job on building an index of this web site, although they have not indexed the full content. Google's got a lot more.

It's also interesting to see how they list sites that link to mine.

But I like it. For the first time, I will likely use MSN's search as a regular tool for finding information, alongside others like Google.

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Saturday, 13 November 2004 11:30:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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