and destroy: Microsoft's new mission to topple Google
Bill Gates has launched what
he hopes will be a rival to the top search engine, but
analysts are far from impressed
THEY say that imitation is the
sincerest form of flattery. In the cut-throat world
of internet information, it could also lose you billions
Microsoft announced its own version
of the Google internet search engine yesterday in the
hope of matching the success of the world’s most popular
website and capturing a share of its multimillion-pound
revenue. Yet technical experts said that the imitation
may have failed and that MSN Search, which looks like
Google, may only be flattering to deceive.
They complained that it did not
offer customers enough new features, and initial versions
failed in the one thing that it is supposed to excel
at — finding information.
“Microsoft has produced a search
engine that’s better in almost every way than Google,
except one: its search results are terrible,” an analyst
for The Register, the IT newspaper, said.
The new tool for internet- users,
introduced in 24 countries and ten languages early yesterday,
is being presented as a means of getting more relevant
results from the morass of available information.
Microsoft claims that its service,
search.msn.co.uk, scans the web for new content every
two days, instead of fortnightly, which is currently
the average for internet search sites. This allows users
to access the latest results and have a better chance
of avoiding sites that are down.
The answers are provided by an
online version of Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopaedia,
which has more than 1.4 million entries. Many home-users
have already bought versions of the encyclopaedia, which
now will be deemed a waste of money because the information
is freely available on the web.
Matt Whittingham, head of information
services at MSN, said: “I think consumers, maybe two
years ago, were wowed by the fact that you could enter
a relatively obscure search term and you would get hundreds
of thousands of results.
“In fact, there is perhaps too
much information out there and what consumers want is
results that are tailored to them.
“They want search engines to
be a bit smarter, to know where they are geographically
and to alter searches depending on the time of day and
if they are at work or at home.”
Microsoft also boasts that it
can beat Google for speed of searches, although in practice
few users will need the ability to have results a tenth
of a second faster. Microsoft is making its money from
MSN Search in a similar way to Google, through “sponsored
These appear at the top of the
screen or down the side and relate to the search made.
Microsoft has been testing the service for a number
of months, but yesterday at last announced the final
In the end, the success and failure
of both websites will come down to a “battle of the
Much of Google’s success can
be attributed to its clever branding strategy, which
relied on the careful cultivation on an “alternative”
image. The company’s code of conduct has been boiled
down to three words: “Don’t be evil.”
Last year Google successfully
floated, but gave warning that fiercer competition would
hit sales and profits.
One of Google’s greatest successes
has been the addition of the verb “to google” into the
English language. The word “Googol”, a mathematical
term for a 1 followed by 100 zeros, reflects the company’s
mission to organise the immense amount of information
available on the web.
Danny Sullivan, an industry expert,
said that this would make it more difficult for Microsoft.
“They’ll be trying to get people to say ‘I MSN Searched
it’,” he said