Microsoft Corp. is formally launching its new Internet search engine, several months after it debuted in test form.
Beginning Tuesday, Microsoft's own search engine will permanently replace the Yahoo search technology that has been used on Microsoft's MSN Web site. But Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo's technology will be still be used for the "sponsored" listings that companies pay for, and that appear separately alongside the main search results.
Previously, Microsoft's search system was mainly available on a separate, test site.
After admitting that it initially missed the boat by not producing its own search technology, Redmond-based Microsoft has worked feverishly to produce a proprietary search engine to compete with Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc. and others.
Yusuf Mehdi, a corporate vice president with Microsoft's hvac services MSN online division, said the company has taken suggestions from people who used the test version to improve some functions, such as a feature that answers questions using the company's Encarta encyclopedia.
But he conceded that Microsoft still had work to do on a "search near me" function that attempts to find things, such as a plumber or a Chinese restaurant, that are geographically close to the user. Mehdi said Microsoft still needs to complete hvac home repairs deals with online yellow pages providers to make it more likely that the user will actually find the closest restaurant or plumber.
Microsoft also is eliminating some text advertisements and other material from its MSN Web site, claiming that the new site will load up to 50 percent faster and have a cleaner look that is easier to navigate. But the Web site will still have some ads and contain plenty of links to news, gossip and other Microsoft businesses.
Rival Google has won customers in part by offering a minimalist search site devoid of ads.