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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Does the New MSN Search Hold Up?

I found some spam in my Hotmail inbox, which I check about once or twice a month (I moved to Gmail a while ago). The spam was from Hotmail, and it’s nice to see it receives a special icon tagging it as “official Hotmail news item.” This particular email advertised, what else, the new MSN Search:

“Do you ever get frustrated with your current search engine that may give you lots of web links to things you don’t want? The new MSN Search helps you to find the right answer to all your searches quickly and easily.”

I made a quick check and entered coca cola company quote dr. strangelove into MSN. I was trying to locate the quote from the Kubrick movie, when Peter Sellers was trying to get some spare change to make a call to the President to save the world. I chose a lot of words for the query because usually, the more words, the tougher – but more specific – it will get. (I expect every search engine to find, say, the proper result for coca cola company, but when you use more words than that you’ll quickly spot a mediocre search engine.)

When scanning through the MSN results, I couldn’t find my quote, not in a single result snippet. So I went to Google. Here, the first snippet for my query was indeed the quote I was trying to recall: “You’re gonna have to answer to the Coca Cola company.

What’s interesting, not only did the first Google snippet have the right quote, all ten snippets (from several different sources) had the right quote, in about two or three variations. It’s exactly this which makes Google search my favorite for any time soon and crucial for those who work with information (especially as programmer, finding the right result can be the dividing line between tackling a task quicky, or leaving the office in deafeat at night).

So MSN loses hands down, but what about Yahoo? Trying the same query, I get great results as well (but the Yahoo front-page is too bloated, so I wouldn’t come back anytime soon unless I’d want to test their search). It looks like MSN is missing something obvious, or it may be they just require a different kind of user. Let’s hope for Microsoft it’s the kind of user not annoyed by spam: that would make a perfect fit.

Well, anyway, you might argue, a single query is far from objective. And you’re right. So I’d like to ask you to think of something you want to find, and to then write down the query, and compare the top results in Yahoo, MSN, and Google, and tell us your favorite by posting your findings in the forum.

Update: FindForward can be used to meta-search all engines at once and compare results.


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