Review of MSN Search
Last updated Apr. 16, 2004.
MSN Search is one of the search engine for the MSN portal site. It uses an Inktomi database. The basic search screen only shows a few options, but by choosing the Advanced Search link, the full range of search features is displayed. This review discusses the full set of options, some of which are only available in the Advanced Search. Use the table of contents on the left to navigate this review.
Databases: MSN Search uses LookSmart for its directory and Inktomi for its search engine database. Its sponsored sites (ads) are from Overture. MSN Featured Sites and Directory results come first from the basic search screen. The Advanced Search only displays Inktomi results. Before Sept. 2002, is used to include a link to Direct Hit results. In the Featured Sites section, results may come from MSN destination sites, MSN Encarta, and/or MSN ad partners. Note that MSN will not retrieve adult content, and that searches on terms such as 'sex' will give no results but will link to an adult search engine.
Boolean Searching: MSN Search offers full Boolean searching in the Advanced Search. After choosing 'Boolean phrase' from the drop down menu, MSN Search supports Boolean searching with the operators AND, OR, and NOT. Either AND NOT or NOT can be used. Searching can be nested using parentheses. Operators must be in upper case. MSN Search can also use - for NOT. The Advanced Search has a drop down menu choice for All the Words or Any of the Words. Also, in the Advanced Search, additional search boxes can be used to add additional terms or combining a phrase search with a Boolean search.
Truncation: Like other Inktomi partners, MSN sometimes had truncation capabilities. When it worked, the truncation symbol * could be used as end truncation or internal. It used to have to be preceded by at least two characters. Unfortunately, since May 2001 the truncation has stopped working. In the Advanced Search, 'word stemming' can be enabled. This is not truncation but rather a search for grammatical word variants (for English words) including plural, singular, and tense. Note that if the truncation symbol starts working again, it cannot be used within a field search.
Apparently not as of April 2004. Previously, MSN Search was case sensitive for unusual usages of case. If search terms are entered in all lower case, all upper case, or with an initial capital, all mixtures of upper and lower case are searched. If a search term contained one or more UPPER case letters in the middle of a word such as
Field Searching: MSN Search offers a variety of field searching capabilities. The drop down menu includes options for searching title words and links to a specific URL. The latter must be a complete URL, and not just a portion of one. The title word search can also be entered in the query box by using the title:word syntax. Other field searches are possible using the designations listed below. Since MSN Help does not have a list, the following comes from HotBot's old Meta Word section of their old help page. Most of these also work at MSN, and most are just the language behind features available via the advanced search form.
Limits: In the advanced search, there are a number of limit options available.
Stop Words: MSN will not search single stop words like 'the' or 'an' but within a search such as 'to be or not to be' and even 'the the' the terms will be searched.
Sorting: Results are sorted by relevance. The advanced search give an option to "Show one result per domain" although even without that checked, only a limited number of results per domain will be displayed. Unique among the Inktomi group, the MSN advanced search also provides an option to sort "equally relevant results" by date, depth, or title. Note that this will only sort those records which have the exact same relevance ranking score.
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