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Microsoft Yanking Yahoo And Scaling Up MSN Search Beta

Microsoft has quietly begun dropping the Yahoo-powered search engine and index at MSN.com in favor of its still-in-beta homegrown MSN Search tool.
Microsoft has quietly begun dropping the Yahoo-powered search engine and index at MSN.com in favor of its still-in-beta homegrown MSN Search tool for a large number of users.

Starting earlier this week, users of various search industry message forums, including the ones at SearchEngineWatch.com, reported that they were seeing results drawn from Microsoft's own technology when using the MSN Search site or the search box at the top of MSN.com, Microsoft's primary consumer portal. By Friday, virtually all the posters claimed that they were directed to the beta of MSN Search when using either the direct URL or MSN.com. (Additional independent tests revealed the same experience Friday.)

For a while, however, it was unclear whether Microsoft had actually thrown the switch and dumped Yahoo altogether, or if it was only more of the same testing that Microsoft announced on Jan. 8.

"From time to time we also route some of the customers from our live search service at search.msn.com through the Beta web site in order to do scalability testing," wrote Oshoma Momoh, the general manager of MSN's search program in a blog then. "You'll continue to see us doing this on occasion for the foreseeable future."

Danny Sullivan, the U.K.-based search expert who maintains SearchEngineWatch.com, had these questions Friday. "So what's the deal? Is the beta gone? [Or] am I just one of the increasing number of those being shown the beta as MSN has promised would happen this month?" he asked on the site.

Microsoft's response to questions drew this statement from Justin Osmer, MSN product manager.

"Some may notice that we have been recently scaling up and scaling down the MSN Search beta service. This continues to be part of our testing process as we near the final version and incorporate user's feedback. Until we fully launch the site, you may expect to see various changes occurring. We will be sure to alert you to the final once it's available."

A Microsoft spokesman would not commit to a going-final date, and only repeated the company's aim to have something wrapped up "early this year."