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February Search Engine News


Search and destroy: Microsoft's new mission to topple Google

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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 of pounds.

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,, 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 links”.

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 version.

In the end, the success and failure of both websites will come down to a “battle of the brands”.

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





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