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8/31/2005
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Microsoft Boosts MSN Toolbar

Microsoft unveils add-ins to its MSN Search Toolbar, including an anti-phishing filter and one-click access to MSN's online games site.

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday unveiled add-ins to its MSN Search Toolbar, including an anti-phishing filter and one-click access to MSN's online games site.

The add-ins and toolbar are available at no charge through the entertainment portal. The new features are available in the U.S. only.

Joe Wilcox, analyst for JupiterResearch, said in his blog Wednesday that MSN's activities are often an indication of what Microsoft would later add to Windows.

As an example, MSN offered pop-up blocking before it appeared in Internet Explorer 6, with Windows XP Service Pack 2, Wilcox said. In addition, MSN released desktop search well before the release of Windows Vista, the next version of the operating system that will include advance search capabilities for the local computer and the web.

"MSN has now made available anti-phishing capabilities before the release of Internet Explorer 7," Wilcox said.

The anti-phishing tool, which is available in beta, prevents people from entering personal data on a website that the software has determined is a phishing site. Such sites are built by criminals to resemble those of legitimate organizations, such as financial institutions and government agencies, in order to steal personal information.

The add-in checks the Web pages customers visit with an online service that has regularly updated information on phishing sites. If a site contains characteristics of a phishing site, but it can't be confirmed, then the add-in will provide a warning and give the option of continuing or avoiding the site.

The games add-in provides one-click access to MSN Games. The tool delivers a pull-down menu of links to the day's most-played games. People can also add online-game links to the menu. MSN Games offers more than 300 games and has more than 30 million registered gamers worldwide, the Redmond, Wash., company said.

MSN and rivals Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have all made toolbars available to make it easy for people to access the search engines and their services before heading on the Web. More than 1 in 5 online consumers use toolbars, according to JupiterResearch.

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