Emerging from book haze because I can finally post on this…it’s been in the works for sometime, but MSFT is, as previously reported, updating and redesigning MSN search. Chief among the changes: The company is abandoning paid inclusion. This is a big deal: Google has (rightly) made hay for years as the white hat in search, committed to editorial purity on the issue of both UI and paid inclusion. MSFT, on the other had, has been the black hat, treating its search results and its search users with near contempt, clutttering up the UI with commercial come ons and littering its organic results with Looksmart directory listings and Inktomi paid inclusion.
Now all that is gone, and MSFT can claim the high ground. The implications are twofold: First, Google has lost some of their unique competitive positioning. And second, Yahoo, which arguably might be called the gray hat, has lost a whipping boy. While I and others (notably Danny Sullivan) have argued that Yahoo’s CAP program is intellectually defensible, it seems to me this move by MSFT will force Yahoo to further clarify its approach to paid inclusion.
Besides dropping paid inclusion, MSFT has redesigned search, refined its Toolbar, and introduced a “Technology Preview Site” where an early beta of its crawler results can be tested.
Update: I should have posted the tech preview site, sorry, it’s here…