The NEW MSN – Reviewed

February 3, 2005

The New MSN Homepage
The new homepage has been rebuilt from the ground up, with a shabby vinyl sidling job. The layout of the new page is great, but the looks of the site seem so much like what I would have expected during the middle of the 90’s. With Microsoft products of late you expect shiny interfaces that work, with the new MSN you get an interface that looks like something Windows 3.1’s look and feel can put to shame. The old MSN is still accessable, and that is a great thing. Come on Microsoft this is as you coined it the “Digital Media Revolution” take advantage of broadband access. Sure the new page loads fast for dial-up, but what about those of us who can handle images and flashy graphics. You copied Yahoo! plain and simple, let Yahoo! have the plain, bland interface; you are Microsoft you are supposed to make products that look and feel great. Content wise I have to give it to you Microsoft unlike the old one your layout is great. There is no more of having to look for what you want the main topics are right there with no problem. On the whole page there are three advertisements. Two of them are at the top out of the way, and the third one is hidden in the content as a topic for Shopping

My Review: 6/10

+: Great layout and content, few ads
-: Very bland and may have problems keeping users interested.

The New MSN Search
Watch out Google, MSN is coming! The new search service is amazing! It uses new technology called natural language to allow you to “ask” the search engine questions. I could try and explain it, but Paul Thurrott couldn’t have said it any better so here is his explanation of it.

“Arguably, the most amazing feature in MSN Search is its ability to answer actual questions, thanks to integration with the voluminous Encarta back-end. Microsoft calls this feature “Encarta results,” and you can access it directly by clicking the Encarta link above the search box. But you can also simply type in a question without directly accessing the Encarta link. The answers you get are surprisingly intelligent.
A simple example: As with Google, you can type a short math equation (e.g. 2+2) into MSN Search and get the answer (4) returned. However, MSN Search takes it much further and can solve algebraic equations. Type in a Google-buster like “2y^3 + 4y -10 = 9” and MSN Search will tell you that x=y=1.805787 (Figure). Type in “cos 45 degrees” and MSN Search will tell you that cos 45deg = 0.707107. “Now this is fun stuff,” Grothaus told me, leading me through some of the amazing searches you can perform. Oh yes, it goes way further than simple equations.
How about some conversions? Type in “how many quarts are in a gallon?” and MSN Search will reply with 1 gallon = 4 quarts. How many centimeters in a foot? 30.48 of course.
OK, that’s fun. But there’s more. How about a direct question? Let’s try: “Who shot John F. Kennedy?” MSN Search says that “Lee Harvey Oswald, a former United States Marine, was arrested for Kennedy’s assassination but was shot and killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby before he could stand trial. Later, a government investigation (the Warren Report) concluded that Oswald acted alone, and no one else was ever charged with taking part in the crime.” It then provides a link for more information about JFK. Who won SuperBowl XXXVIII? The New England Patriots, of course.
You want definitions? Search for “define debacle.” The result? “Chaotic failure.” You can also ask about geographical data (“What is the mass of Jupiter?”) and nutrition (“How many calories are there in spinach?”) as well.
“It’s a great tool for helping people get to answers quickly that they know are from a trusted source,” Grothaus said. “We’re going to continue to add more and more information into this. Right now, it’s based on somewhat of a tablet set up for asking questions. But there are a couple of projects out of Microsoft Research that you may be familiar with–Ask MSR, for example–and a lot of those projects take a natural language approach. So if you look at asking a question like, ‘who killed Abraham Lincoln?’, you would basically go into the algorithmic engine, look at the entire index of Web source material, and it would sort out the words ‘Abraham Lincoln,’ ‘killed,’ and look for them in proximity to each other. You’ll get results like Mary Todd Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth. It will then analyze how many times it sees these words are clustered together and come up with algorithmic predictions. John Wilkes Booth might be a 75 percent likelihood of being the answer, whereas Mary Todd Lincoln might be 23 percent, or whatever. We’re not sure yet how it will end up as an end user experience. Maybe we’ll show the proportionate weighting so people know there’s a possibility of other answers. Those are things we’re looking at to incorporate down the road.”
So what about Google? Frankly, the search leader offers nothing like this. For certain types of queries (“Who shot Abraham Lincoln?”), you can sometimes get a rough approximation by clicking “I’m feeling lucky” but there’s no real answering of questions occurring there, of course.” -WinSuperSite.com

The next great feature is SearchBuilder. This feature puts any search engines Advanced Search to shame. The customizable search options and possibilities are endless. It allows you to custom tailor any search to fit you. I love this little thing! There is not much it can do that the others can’t, but the way it is presented puts it on top. It puts a new menu on the web page to edit your search results instead of having to go to another page, this can save lots of time in the long run.

I can’t say anything about the results because the information is not available yet. The way it presents the results though I can. Google seems more polished and less messy than MSN’s results. When I see MSN the results look rushed and slapped together, but on Google the results seem to be like they were made to be there and not just put there to fill up space.

Overall MSN is a great new search engine, they have a long ladder to clime to beat Google, but I do think Google’s days are numbered. Whether or not MSN will overthrow Google only time will tell, but there are so many options out there and it seems Google’s lead gets smaller and smaller every month.

My Review: 8/10
+: Great tools like NewsBot, SearchBuilder, natural language, and others set it apart from the others
-: No test to see if it gives results better than Google, messy presentation in displaying results.

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2 Responses to “The NEW MSN – Reviewed”


  1. I’ll stick with google. I don’t like MSN search.

  2. mooba Says:

    I would be interested to know why if you don’t mind.


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