Microsoft Readies News, Blog Services

Expanding its push into the Internet search space, Microsoft says it plans to launch Internet search services for news and Web logs later this year.

The new services, called MSN Newsbot and MSN Blogbot, up the ante in the battle for Internet search market share. Microsoft has already said it is working on its own general Internet search engine, expected to be launched this year, to go head-to-head with Google. The Friday announcements were made at a Microsoft meeting for online advertisers.

"Consumers are saying that they are not finding the results that they want from any search site today. There is a huge room for improvement in the search space," says Karen Redetzki, a product manager for MSN at Microsoft.

Also Friday, Microsoft said it is working on a natural language search engine, dubbed MSN Answerbot. This service will take questions from users and find answers on the Internet, rivaling a similar service from Ask Jeeves. No release date for MSN Answerbot has been set, but Redetzki says it is about three years away.

Service Strategy

MSN Newsbot will gather news from more than 4000 sources worldwide. The service is being tested at newsbot.msn.com. Google and Yahoo also offer news search services. The MSN Newsbot test version is online in 10 of MSN's 38 markets today and that number will be expanded, Redetzki says. "We're looking at worldwide roll-outs for all of our search products," she adds.

Microsoft is claiming a first with MSN Blogbot, a service that will let users search Web logs, or "blogs," personal-journal type Web pages that have become increasingly popular. Many consumers even use blogs as a news source, according to Microsoft.

MSN Blogbot will aggregate content from hundreds of thousands of Web logs and index that content based on which Web logs are most popular and credible, Redetzki said. The service should go into beta soon, and Microsoft plans to introduce MSN Blogbot worldwide, she said.

Microsoft has made Internet search a key investment area and is building its own search engine from scratch. The company's current search services on the MSN Web site are offered through a partnership with Yahoo.

"Microsoft excels at software issues, and to build a search engine from scratch is a software issue. This is a perfect opportunity for Microsoft to take on this software challenge head on," Redetzki says.

MSN Newsbot will be the first of the new services to officially launch. It will be followed by MSN Blogbot and the general search service based on the newly developed Microsoft search technology, Redetzki says.

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