Microsoft launches start page test to compete with Google’s start page



When I first saw the MSN search page I had to smirk. It reminded me much of the Google search page. It was a nice “clean” layout, take away the blue background and the similarities would be greater. Of course my first thought was. “OK they’re copying google.” or at least their style. Next


comes MSN virtual earth complete with maps, satellite and a hybrid mode. Once again, it looks like they’re doing a copy of Google Maps. Admittedly I see a couple features at the MSN Virtual Earth site that I don’t see at Google Maps (locate me mostly). I don’t find the locations quite as accurate as I have with Google Maps though. (One address I checked at MSN was 1/2 a mile off, with google it was 200 feet off.)

A new initiative of MSN Sandbox (the equivalent of Google Labs) is the personalized Start Page. (Sounds familiar.)

The real coup I guess is the domain name www.start.com, but essentially, Microsoft is matching Google’s start page. Now the default view of this on MSN has a few more news feeds on the page, but both can be customized with news feeds, stock quotes and weather plus a few other items. The two biggest differences I can see off the bat is that Google let’s you add ANY rss feed, I can’t find that ability at MSN and MSN has a “your searches” entry. My mistake, I just clicked on “My Feeds” and see the option to add a feed. Google start page does give the ability to add bookmarks which I haven’t found on the MSN search yet. (Of course Google gives the chance to manage your search history as well through a different area of their site www.google.com/searchhistory )

So it looks like Microsoft is going to be doing a “tit for tat” kind of duel with Google for a while. I haven’t tested their search results really, but I have seen their bot spidering my web site. It’s been much more agressive than Google’s bot. (At some points spidering as much as once a day, thoroughly.) Google’s bot is more conservative in its approach.

I’m wondering if this is supposed to be “innovation”. Of course, I hear Internet Explorer 7 will “innovate” too with tabbed browsing (How many other browsers have plowed this ground before?) Of course, since Microsofts browser is the default in windows, and the default home page these days is the MSN portal they can flex muscle just a bit and control the bulk of internet viewing traffic. (If even as low as 60% of web users have Internet Explorer and half of those change their start page we’re still talking about a significant number of viewers.) Of course, with their pay per click advertising program, much like Google’s Adwords, that little flex of muscle can make a big impact dollar wise.

This is exactly why I’m concerned about Ballmer claiming that they will win the war of the internet. It’s more than being just about the browser you use, or the operating system. It’s about having a choice. It’s about having competition in the computer software industry, AND the search market AND the advertising market online, AND in maps and satellite imagery, AND in areas that we may not take note of. Competition is what breeds the innovation that we’ve seen from Google and others in recent years. Killing off the competition is what left us with Internet Explorer 5.5 and Explorer 6.0′s “innovations” while Microsoft thought the browser war was over, they stopped innovating, or even copying features. Now thanks in large part to Firefox, Explorer 7 is in beta testing with “innovative features” and improved standards compliance. Not perfect standards compliance, just improved. The only place I’m going with this is one I’ve been before. This is why I support alternatives to Windows and Microsoft products wherever I can. In some cases I’ve done so only to see the company bought out by Microsoft and the non-Windows compatible products killed off. So, if Microsoft wins the war of the web, what products or ideas do you think will get “killed off”?

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