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MSN Search biggest mistake?

 3:01 pm on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

When Microsoft entered the game industry, they called their product Xbox. Though the Xbox is far from a perfect product it has a name and logo that can be branded and get some distance from the Microsoft name , creating a product that could stand on its own legs. Xbox is now a respected name in the game industry and have a strong position.

I was very puzzled that when Microsoft went live with their new search engine that they called it MSN Search , instead of getting a unique domain and name for their new product. I mean [search.msn.com...] is so boring and gives the impression that there is no new product just a new and improved search section at MSN.com. Bill has said that they are now taking the search battle very serious and that they will go after Google. They gone do all this but didnít even bother to give the projects a name and domain of its own. I understand that Microsoft thought this was a good idea, but I think it is a huge huge mistake. I think this again shows how Microsoft fails to understand how to make product for a none US audience. Though the Xbox was a good name, the design of the Xbox and its controllers were a joke to rest of the world. In Europe and Japan design is very important, something Sony and Nintendo have always known. Didnít Microsoft do any market research outside the US at all? I donít think so because if they did the Xbox would not look anything like it does today.

Any company that is serious about competing with Google, will not just have to have the right search technology. They also need a killer name that that can be made into a world wide brand. MSN Search is not that name. No doubt that that they will get a lot of traffic through MSN.com , but I still think this was a huge mistake.

Now letís get this debate going, have Microsoft just made another big mistake or do they have some genius plan that I failed to see?



 3:13 pm on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I share exactly the same for new MSN search. I will never type search.msn.com. They should purchase simple and good domain name.

Of course, they think that domain name will not be important once they place searchbox on taskbar what might be true. If they pick another domain name, Windows users would think they were redirected to some 3rd party search rather than MSN search. I believe they have good strategy although I still don't like search.msn.com URL :)


 8:12 pm on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

gives the impression that there is no new product just a new and improved search section at MSN.com

Well, that's exactly true, from the user's perspective. MSN search is the search that www.msn.com uses, regardless of how much work went into it.

If memory serves, MS has made some money in the past from upgrades to existing products.


 8:21 pm on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Works for Yahoo.

MSN's search box is on the 2nd most popular English language website on the planet (Google's 3rd); why do they need a new domain?


 8:31 pm on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

The point is that the search.msn.com page is just one very small part of the operation. The idea is to make MSN Search an integral part of the Windows process, for example running it through the Internet Explorer address bar, toolbar, everywhere on the MSN site, eventually within the operating system, not withstanding any anti-trust problems.

MSN is Microsoft's "generic" online persona. MSN Search is a part of that persona, and success in the eyes of Microsoft would be that MSN Search becomes the default, generic search for Windows users (ie. 95%+ of users). IE made the browser invisible (part of the operating system), MSN Search is destined to be the same: "no need to go to the Google site, just search the internet here!", where "here" is anywhere.


 9:49 pm on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yes itís obvious that Microsoft plans to make its search integrated as much as possible into its other applications and especially the next windows. I bet we will see things as internet search totally integrated into MS Word that can pull only text for results from websites without having to view the whole site. Yes, itís look very much like Microsoft is going to make MS Search just another MS feature for itís already large audience. So itís no doubt that they will get a lot of monthly searches. I still think feel that if Microsoft had launched this new search engine as a search engine that could have a name of its own and still be integrated it into their current and future applications, that they could reach those who donít use MS software and donít have MSN.com as their start page. And believe me, itís not a small group of people. I donít doubt that Microsoft will be successful with their new search; the question is if they could be even more successful if they had also given their search legs of its own.


 11:42 pm on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I don't understand this discussion :
When you want to go google you go to www.google.com
When you want to go Yahoo you go to www.Yahoo.com
When you want to go MSN you go to www.msn.com

Then, the first textbox you find is the searchbox, in the three sites, that's plain direct, what's the problem?

BTW, which is shortest?

Marketing Guy

 11:49 pm on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

You don't need to type anything in if it's your default homepage. Why would MSN want to throw their search onto another domain and then have to choose between portal and search to default IE to?



 2:05 am on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Actually I also agree with the first post. It needs a domain. Although you can go to msn.com and do the search, that's not the problem. The problem is that the search box needs its own domain that is short and easy to remember while having a simple look and feel. The reason why google does so well is because of the simplicity of it.

For msn to catch up with google search, it will have to have it's own brandname specific to the search box and only the search box. It needs something that says search and not microsoft windows, msn messenger, msn explorer, etc.

It also needs to load quickly, be easy to find and easy to type in and remember. To be honest, when i want to go to search.msn.com I don't always remember the url 99% of the time. I always have to try two or three different urls first to get it correct. As for going to msn.com and searching, well I have a slow connection and I don't like waiting any longer than I have to. Also I think the search box needs to change on their home page... looks too much like an ad and not like a search bar.

Even if it was a simple change to msnsearch.com it would be better. (Yes that url actually does work, however it's not the same. They don't market this, it just redirects to search.msn.com).

So from strictly a user point of view, they need a better domain and change of the green search bar on msn.com.

Lord Majestic

 2:25 am on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Don't think name matters as much in this case since Microsoft has got unparalleled access to desktops and new MSN Messenger, Explorer, Longthorn (sp?) will all have easy access to search engine that will default to MSN.


 4:07 am on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Don't think name matters as much in this case since Microsoft has got unparalleled access to desktops and new MSN Messenger, Explorer, Longthorn (sp?) will all have easy access to search engine that will default to MSN.

You are 100% correct! THINK about what will drive MSN search not what Google is doing today but what MSN will be doing tomorrow! With the impending release of Microsoft's next generation operating systems and developments within it's desktop software applications Google should really be the one in fear here. I don't know how many people I have seen or still do put the terms they are searching for in the address bar and click GO! Now the fact is that Internet Explorer defaults to MSN search and it will come preinstalled with every OS Microsoft ships as it already does. I don't see the "average joe" figuring out or even wanting to find Google.com for any search if theres a box for search on every application you use. Windows dominates desktops and software and Google will have to figure out a way to negate what MSN will be featuring in the next release of Windows. MSN on the other hand has to get todays "average joe" away from Google. When "average Joe" upgrades or buys a new computer what is the most likely OS on his computer? WINDOWS! Preinstalled with IE and MSN Search :>~ Now how easy is that for "average joe" to use? If "average joe" has a search box everywhere he looks on his computer do you think he'll over exert his brain to find Google? NO.

Furthermore "average joe" doesn't realize that Google is even a search engine. Some think the term "Google" simply means internet search period and don't even know that to use google it requires you to type google.com in the address bar.

You say "Simplicity" is what makes Google the market leader. Well I would say microsoft is taking a note right outta Google's book on that note. Make it simple, put it everywhere on Microsoft's OS so it's simple to find and easy to use. Beat that Google! Good luck! Fire up your open source community (linux, mozilla, etc) and we'll see who falls first.

Now you say pretty colors? Hmm... I have no comment on that. :>~

MSN will bring the heat in the coming years, I just wish it was TODAY! :>~


 12:58 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

There is no way that MSN will rename its new search. Building awareness of a new brand is very difficult, even for the likes of Microsoft with its vast resources. MSN is already a known brand and the new search fits very nicely into the Microsoft portfolio of products. Once Microsoft integrates MSN search into its desktop products there will be 2 major search engines, and that can only be good for the industry.


 3:38 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

How can you not understand the core of this discussion?

When people hear Google, they think search.

When people hear Yahoo, they think search.

When people hear MSN, they thinkÖMicrosoftís home page?ÖMessenger..? Get it?

The search biz is likely to grow with 1000% in the next ten years. Microsoft can integrate itís search technology in thousands of products , but at the end of the day many people prefer to use products that are more defined. Why do people still buy both an MP3 player and a mobile phone when you can have them both integrated in the same product? I think the search biz is so big that MS maybe should have made the MSN Search into a more defined product. I am not saying am right, itís just my opinion and I want to discuss it with other webmasters.

History shows that Microsoft tends to make mistakes when it comes to branding and design. They made some very bad design decisions with the Xbox that have really hurt their sales. I guess we never really are going know if they could have achieve an even stronger position in the search biz if they had chosen the other alternative. Still I think it is an interesting question so Iíd like to hear more opinions about this subject.

Another thing is that I think MS are also manipulating their actually search numbers a bit. One of my sites rank nr 1 for a popular keyword in MSN Seacrh , and as nr 3 in Google. Still Google sends me 10 times the traffic for that key word. This also seems to be the case for the rest of my sites.

Lord Majestic

 3:57 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

When people hear MSN, they thinkÖMicrosoftís home page?ÖMessenger..? Get it?

In 2006/7 most people will boot their PC and see search bar that will lead them to MSN search -- it might never become as well associated with Microsoft, but it could do the trick of sending lots of search traffic away from G and Y.


 4:40 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

No doubt that MS will get lots of traffic from their next Windows. But what happened to MS Media player could also happen to MS Search if they have it too well integrated into Windows. I think this could become an issue, but I am not sure. Does anyone here know the MS Media player case in detaile and could shine some light one this?


 5:29 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

>How can you not understand the core of this discussion?
>When people hear MSN, they thinkÖMicrosoftís home >page?ÖMessenger..? Get it?

Why Yahoo don't need another name for their search?
Why MSN does need another name for their search?

I think you're seeing things from an strange angle.
Like if the average Joe really cares about which search to use, when we know most people even type their search in the browser location bar.

So, see it this way, let's think people wants to find something, they open their favorite browser, guess, what, IE, then, magically, it leads to MSN, guess what, there's a search bar right on the top ... guess what, they type what they want and it return results.

How can be the branding proposal really be needed in this soo common scenario?

Time will tell, for sure.


 6:02 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

"How can be the branding proposal really be needed in this soo common scenario?"

If it's so easy to use the Search on MSN.com how come Google has the position it has today, and how come MSN hardly send most website any traffic compared to Google?


 7:07 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)


Even Bill Gates himself has widely admited they came late to the search business, they were slow on promoting they're search engine, and on, and on.

Actually, we were somehow happy with Microsoft out of the search engine game.
All of the sudden they decided to participate and that was just like a year ago, they've just released their own search engine ... and you ask why?

I'm not a Microsoft fan at all, just think straight and try to figure out why Microsoft didn't do it in the search engine, because they didn't want!, now they want, and are starting to play.

Remember MS also came late to the Browsers war, do you remember that? Did that stopped to put Netscape out of the business?
Depending your age, you may remember other stories.

Again, not a MS fan, but I just don't want to be blind about what they can do, and about they don't need another brand.


 7:42 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Looks like you didn't get the point (again), and I know my internet history thank you.

The point is if the average Joe is as stupid as you say , they would not have noticed that the old MSN search wasnít as good as Google. MSN.com have had a search on their page for a long time, and do you really think that the same Average Joe will think ď Ohhh! I see MSN have improved their SERP. No they will not. The Average Joe believes the best place to search the web is from a search engine. Right now that search engine is Google. If it will one day be MSN Search , no body can tell for sure. Again, itís not a stupid discussion at all. It is brand VS integrated search and I very much think itís worth looking at the pros and cons of both strategies.

Marketing Guy

 9:16 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm sorry but that's pure speculation and not very accurate at that.

I've sat and watched non-techy people do a search on whatever default page their browser throws at them, more often than not MSN or their ISP's portal. What's more, they are happy to click through the results, despite what most of us would describe as "bad results".

The average user really doesn't know the difference in the quality of the SERPs. Most are happy with using what is right in front of them.

As far as the average user is concerned, every search box on the web may as well be provided by one company, as there is no difference in the results for them because they always find what they want one way or another.

It doesn't matter that their default location to search is MSN, their ISP, Yahoo, Google or whatever.

If MSN were to uniquely brand their search, then they not only need to promote the new search to the mass market, but they also need to educate users as to why it is better, which is a much harder thing to do!

And right now, it's not in MSNs best interest to start educating users to venture away from default homepages! ;)

It's like a local supermarket opening up a bakery. Of course they will have INSIDE the supermarket and of course they aren't about to start reminding customers that there are other sources of quailty baked goods elsewhere! :P

If it's so easy to use the Search on MSN.com how come Google has the position it has today, and how come MSN hardly send most website any traffic compared to Google?

You think if MSN had entered the search market when Google did we would be in the same situation now?

Google have a huge presence, largely due to their reputation flooding out from academic and IT circles into the mass market over the past years. They also (despite what some people may argue) had the quality to back it up and a pretty damn effective marketing department.

MSN hardly send any traffic to sites compared to Google because quite frankly, their search isn't that good. MSN has only around 10% of my sites cached, compared to Google (and I know I'm not alone) and they have quite a few years experience to catch up on in terms of filtering spam.

MSNs user base is pretty different from Googles, as is their overall product portfolio, so it stands to reason that their methods of distribution will be different also.



 10:13 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

"It's like a local supermarket opening up a bakery. Of course they will have INSIDE the supermarket and of course they aren't about to start reminding customers that there are other sources of quailty baked goods elsewhere! :P "

I agree, and I also think that the bakery should be inside the supermarket. Though MSN Search will be more like the Super store of the supermarket rather than the bakery. Anyway what I am saying is keep the Bakery in the super market and put up signs pointing to it all over the place. But also give the Bakery a bloody name and open up a back door so people outside the supermarket also can get some cokies ;)

Also when I am talking about the average joe, I am not talking about the new guys who search in the address bar. I mean the average joe who knows that one can shop stuff at Amazon and that one can search at Google. They might not be able to tell a good SERP from a bad SERP , but they have learned to use the net and a computer. Even though there are still millions of new guys still searching in the adress bar. They are soner or later gonna be educated by some friends who will tell them what to do. That friend is more likely to tell them to search at Google, and not at MSN.com. Not because they think Google has such great SERP, but because Goolge is search engine and not a news portal with a search box.

Marketing Guy

 10:36 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm still not convinced! ;)

I would view search engines as modern day telephone directories. Maybe different formats and functions but they have the same purpose (for users).

Now given the choice between:

- Yellow Pages
- Local telephone directory (with business listings)
- Regional business directory

Which would most people choose? In the majority of cases, the one that was on the top of the pile. Convienence is the largest deciding factor for a lot of people.

These people do not realise (or care) that another phone directory would have a larger choice of listings, or a better quality of listings. Perhaps to some extent branding and quality will play a part in the decision making process, but (IMO) not a large part for most people.

I can see your point though, that Google is viewed as "search" whereas MSN and Y! are viewed as "portals where you can search", but I don't think this particularly gives Google more credibility in the eyes of the masses.

Yes, they have reached popular culture to the point where people "Google" instead of searching, but this isn't a new thing. "Hoover" become synomous with vacuum cleaning and that was a marketing coop. Until the realisation that people "hoovered" with competitors products! I'm sure many of the people who "Google" will be just as content to do so on MSN and Y! ;)



 11:01 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think Google with it's strong brand is gonna keep it's position as the nr 1 in the search biz. Though it's pretty clear that many of you think MS with its "no brand" strategy will take the throne. One thing is for sure that the next three years are gonna be very interesting :)

Marketing Guy

 11:04 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Oh don't get me wrong - I'm not saying one is going to be better than the other or whatever - I just think that for MSN, the integrated search route is better (just now) than the stand alone search brand. :)


 6:45 am on Feb 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

It would be a bit out of character for MS to use a distinctive brand for MSN Search. They've done it with some things, but their tendency to use generic names is almost legendary.

In fact, there was an April Fools' press release a few years back about Microsoft's purchase of the Roman Catholic Church, which they renamed "Microsoft Church". "Excel" and "XBox" are the exceptions, not the rule.


 7:08 am on Feb 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

For msn to catch up with google search, it will have to have it's own brandname specific to the search box

MSN Search sound pretty brandable to me.

When people hear MSN, they thinkÖ

I think, cribbage. It's really the only reason I fire up Explorer, and that's only because I can't get it to work in any other browser. Kinda irritating.. so yeah, when I hear MSN I also think, proprietary.

I don't see how it's a mistake to use the MSN name and domain. It's already been noted how this search will eventually be integrated into everything $M. The use of a sub-domain, search.domain.com is easily understood by a lot of people. If I want to search anything on MSN today, it's as easy as typing MSN into the G search bar, and take my pick from the many listings.

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