Another day, another MSN Search Beta Post

One last take on the MSFT vs GOOG search game…

MSFT investors reaction to Microsoft’s new search offering: YAWN….

GOOG investors reaction to Microsoft’s new search offering: BUY!

Lacking any obvious disruptive features, this beta roll-out could have been handled much better. Basically, a company press release screams to the world “Hey look at me, I’ve got something cool to show you!”.

So we all went to http://beta.search.msn.com and tried it out. Most people weren’t impressed.

How could Microsoft have done this better?

1. Scratch the press release. This only raised people’s expectations too high.

2. Assuming that you need people to use the search in order to make it better, set it up on a publically available website and leak the url to a couple of influential bloggers. Instruct your PR people to hold a hard line on the “We do not discuss unreleased products” position. Everyone will share the url, everyone will try it, some will like it, but expectations would be much lower so the user’s experiences would have a chance of beating the expectations.

3. Release the API to some influential developers. Let them use the search API behind the scenes.

4. As I said in my previous post, brand it better! “MSN Search” is sooo boring. Come up with a brand name that embodies why this search is better than the competition. One word, easy to “verbize”, etc.

5. It’s much better for it to be obvious, but as a last stitch effort, document (in a help file or FAQ) exactly _why_ your search is better. People are trained to query their favorite search engines, and the query formulation that gets the best results from Google might not get the best results from MSN Search. Tell me how to make your search work better for me.

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One Last Post on the MSN Search Beta

Ok, the Beta Search is finally working. It’d be great if we could got an explaination on the msnsearch weblog about all the error messages this morning. That might be asking for a little too much transparency.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Ego Test:

Moderately unsuccessful. Just typing in my name puts one result on the first page that actually relates to me. On Google, all but one first page result is about me. Putting my name in quotes brings the results more inline with Google.

Shopping Test:

Moderately Successful. Produced a couple of relevent sponsored links, some good reviews, and a few totally irrelevent pages.

Code Help:

Successful: Symbols like the “+” in C++ and the “#” in C# didn’t seem to throw it off, and most pages looked relevent.

The Monty Python Test:

Successful: Yes, the MSN search can help you find the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow

I also threw a couple of naturallanguage queries at it. I was hoping that maybe this would be where MSN Search would shine, but alas, I wasn’t impressed.

Overall, I’m not impressed. I would think that if you were going to generate buzz on something like a beta release of your search technology, it would be more impressive.

Ok, I tried to figure it out on my own, I even asked the MSN Search Beta, but I can’t quite figure out why the new MSN Search is better than Google.

Update:

The msnsearch blog has fessed up to some “technical difficulties”. No real explainations, but the admission is well received. Most of us realize that it’s only a beta, so it will probably only get better from here.

More MSN Search Beta Info

A follow-on to my earlier post

Link to search

Link to MSN Search Team Blog

More comments:

Most of my trial searches are still returning the “This site is temporarily unavailable, please check back soon” message.

Searches that don’t work for me:

Hallihan

Rick Hallihan

Blobservations

Microsoft Visual C# 2005

Redhat Linux

MSDN Universal Price

Microsoft MSN Search

Searches that do work for me:

Microsoft

This site is temporarily unavailable, please check back soon.

This could be some strange interaction between proxies, firewalls, and the beta search site, but the end effect is that the search looks broken to the user.

MSN Search Beta Launches (Again…)

The latest iteration of the MSN Search Service Beta is up, and I’m anxious to give it a try, but all I get for results is: “This site is temporarily unavailable, please check back soon.” Not cool for the morning after a press release. Now I’ll give Microsoft a little slack since it does still say “Beta”. More later when I can get it to work…

Off the top of my head I have this suggestion:

* Brand your search! It seems like Microsoft is trying to drag this new search on the coattails of the MSN brand, but you need a better name if you want people to talk about it. Call it “_______ by MSN” if you must keep the MSN name in there, but if I can’t “verbize” the name of the search, it’s harder to talk about it.

Bus Driving by Committee

Lucas Conley has an interesting post on FastCompany titled “All I Need to Know About Business I Learned On a Greyhound Bus“.

On my first read, I was thinking that this sounded very true. Upon reflection, I see two sides to this story.

The first side leads me to commend the bus driver for thier flexibility, and to commend the riders for providing good input. The “team” achieved a common goal, by committee, and they all felt good about themselves at the end of the drive.

The second side however is less positive. Let’s say we have two buses that are going to travel the same route, and the goal is to get to the destination cheaply and quickly.

The first bus has a driver like the one described in the story. He doesn’t know his route well, but he’s willing to listen to his subordinates (riders).

The second bus has a driver that actually knows his route, knows the side-roads to use to circumvent traffic jams, knows how to avoid getting stuck behind the ever-present car-waiting-for-left-turn at North Something Street.

Which bus would you want to be riding? The riders of the first bus may have celebrated their arrival, but only because they realize that it could have been much worse. Their fun will likely be spoiled when they realize it could have been much better as well…