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MSN beta version now running

Microsoft has opened up a beta version of its long awaited MSN search engine.

However, don't expect anything radical just yet as it still appears to be based on the existing Inktomi results of its current MSN search.

The MSN search beta is not in a state to challenge Google at the moment. It seems quite slow and the majority of results are still coming from Inktomi. Although rumoured to exist, in some simple searches we applied we could see no sign of any results from MSNBot.

The system seems to be in some sort of flux at the moment with some sections - such as directory listings or sponsored links down the side appearing and disappearing with each search - even for the same search term. However, some parts at least seem to be consistent.

In general the Looksmart directory listings seem to have disappeared following Microsoft's recent termination of the contract. What remains are the sponsored links and the web pages. The sponsored sites are now kept much more distinctive from the listings with their own border and background. Mostly these are kept at the top or occasionally down the side as with Google's adwords.

Interestingly, whereas the existing MSN explains that some placements have been paid for - fast track inclusion rather than positioning - as with the traditional LookSmart and Inktomi business models, no mention is made on the new search.

This could just mean that the Microsoft design team hasn't got round to mentioning it yet on the beta although it is more likely that in future the listings themselves will remain 'pure' as they are on Google. This will come as a reassurance to MSN search users who always had their suspicions that a site's listing might have something to do with the fact that they have paid for it.

While the design itself on the beta version is almost identical to the existing site, there have been a few cosmetic changes. The font size of the results has been raised so that they look indistinguishable from Google. Also gone is the rather pointless numbering of the results down the page. There are also more results per page on the new site rather than the old.

As mentioned, the Web pages are still based on Inktomi results. However, with Inktomi now part of arch-rival Yahoo's stable, it can only be a matter of time before the Inktomi listings are replaced by those derived from MSNbot.

Source: PC Pro.co.uk

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