Has MSN Able to Right the Ship?

Search Engine Roundtable features a thread found at at Webmasterworld, questioning the performance of MSN Search after more than two years since it was launched. Unlike Yahoo! and Google, MSN hasn’t gone off to a respectable position in search engine world. No wonder the replies to the initial post, so far, were unsurprisingly hostile:

Every person who worked on this project should be fired

Honestly, they haven’t gotten anything right. I have 90 pages in their index compared to 140,000 in Yahoo and I don’t think I’m alone in this. I have all static URL’s so that’s not the problem, the bot just doesn’t crawl. The serps are ridiculously bad. They’re so embarrassing msndude won’t even show up anymore…lol. I could go on and on….

It still suffers from the same problems it had on day one. I get very little traffic from them because they still can’t manage to find the appropriate pages in my site to return. (At least they do return pages from my site – just the wrong ones.)

Instead of focusing more into improving search result quality MSN Search instead spent time rebranding, renaming the product into Windows Live Search in September 2006, eight years after its birth. It’s not the first time the Redmond, Washington-based company preferred to do cosmetic changes ahead of its core functionality. Now, www.live.com also doubles as an MSN Search tool, with facility to search desktop, images or Microsoft Encarta.

Since Microsoft dominates the operating system market, it is easy for the company to impose their default functionalities, making MSN Search the default search engine on Internet Explorer, with no option to change it into Google or Ask. Rival browser Firefox on the other hand, while setting Google as default homepage, has flexible search engine add ons. Recently launched Windows Vista does not even require a browser to search using MSN Search.

In a strange twist, switching from Google to MSN in Internet Explorer 7 created some problems. It sounds like Zune being incompatible to Windows Vista. Ouch. (OK, Microsoft would like to counter the iPhone hype with Zune phone, Webpronews reports.)

Looking back at its history, MSN existed as a search engine but its results come from Inktomi, then added Looksmart and Altavista before using its own. With such setup, problems showed up. Its Page Submission Tool appears to have problems for certain users. other users report a limit on search results returned. While people asked when does Google remove its beta versions on its seemingly stable applications like Gmail and Blogger, Microsoft’s $100 million beta version went down shortly after it was launched in November 2004.

Even before it evaluates pages for ranking, MSN Search seem to have issues with indexing (or apparently doing so) and actually proving it took place.

I think some of the battering comes from the fact that MSN Search is owned and operated by Microsoft, the software giant known to have bugs in its operating system. MSN Search admits the flaw:

“It’s something we’d been talking about for quite a while, but the fact that we decided to turn it on last night was just decided last night,” Justin Osmer, product manager of MSN Search, told ClickZ News.

MSN Search, just like any other search engines strive to provide quality results simply because having one means attracting more Internet users, thereby creating a huge opportunity in search marketing business. Sad to say, MSN Search has a lot of catching up to do to be at par with Google or Yahoo!. But as long as the company commits itself to improving (a lot of things can be improved), everyone should give MSN Search a chance.

Even Google regards MSN Search the top result for “search”. A shot in the arm from the leader.