NEW YORK Microsoft's MSN, which has been playing catch-up in the red-hot search realm, today debuted a beta version of its search service.
Available at beta.search.msn.com, the search engine features an index of more than 5 billion Web documents. In what appeared to be a pre-emptive move of sorts, Google vp of engineering Bill Coughran wrote on the search behemoth's blog yesterday said that its index has nearly doubled to more than 8 billion pages.
Some features of the MSN search product include the ability to answer users' questions directly through results from Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia and a localization function that lets consumers receive results tailored to a geographic area. Also, consumers can get linked to music and other content provided by MSN Music when they enter the name of an artist, song or album.
The beta product continues to carry sponsored-search links from Overture, owned by MSN competitor Yahoo! A complete version of the search tool is expected to launch early next year.