MSN Search debuts today

Microsoft Corp.'s proprietary new search engine is scheduled to go live today in a beta version, at beta.search.msn.com.

Like its rival, Google.com, the Microsoft site has a simple, plain home page with a large search field and links for searching specifically within news or images. A search for "Government Computer News" turned up 67,563 hits in 0.22 second at MSN Search. The same search at Google.com produced 349,000 hits in 0.65 second.

MSN Search, like Google, uses Boolean operators, has an installable toolbar and accepts advertisements, although none appear at the moment. One significant difference is that an MSN searcher can tailor search results based on his or her geographic location using the engine's Near Me feature. (Google, on the other hand, has a government-specific version of its engine.)

There are links on MSN Search's home page to MSN.com, Hotmail and Messenger, plus a Search Builder that can help filter or narrow results. The home page also has a link to a Spanish version; overall the engine can search in 12 languages.

Backed by Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia, the search site can define words, solve simple equations, and provide information about history, science and other topics.

MSN Search has three components: the MSNBot Web crawler that finds and updates content, the Index Generator of about 5 billion pages and the Query Server.

Google.com today boosted its indexed inventory to more than 8 billion pages.

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