MSN Joins Desktop Search Race

MSN became the latest search engine to offer desktop search capabilities yesterday, joining Yahoo and Google, which launched similar programs earlier this year.

After beta testing the desktop function for five months, MSN debuted the new Search Toolbar with Windows Desktop Search, letting its users search for more than 200 file forms across the Web or their PCs.

The free application lets consumers use familiar Microsoft programs, including Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office Outlook, to search for e-mails, images, Outlook contacts, e-mail attachments and several other data items.

“By offering the most integrated desktop search capabilities for Windows, now people can search their PC as fast as they can search the Web,” said Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president for the MSN Information Services & Merchant Platform Division at MSN.

MSN's Search Toolbar also includes Pop-up Blocker, Form Fill — letting users fill out online forms with one click — and a highlighting feature that color codes search keywords on a results page.

MSN is just the latest engine to come on board with a desktop search function this year. Google added Desktop Search earlier this year after Yahoo announced a beta test of its Yahoo Desktop Search. Google's Desktop Search provides full text search of e-mail, computer files, Web chats, multimedia files and other information. Yahoo's Desktop Search lets users find any type of file on their computers, along with Yahoo Messenger instant messages and Yahoo Address Book contacts.

That all these major search engines now have desktop search capabilities is part of an “overall competitive environment where the engines want the users to choose,” said Kevin Lee, chairman of search engine marketing firm, New York.

“He who controls the eyeballs wins,” he said. “The winner in the desktop will likely have a huge advantage in the full search arena [Web search].”

MSN's version provides services similar to Yahoo's and Google's, but MSN aims to differentiate itself by stressing that users can initiate a quick and easy search from Internet Explorer, Outlook and other “familiar” Microsoft programs.

Users also can preview the contents of their PCs directly from the desktop search view, and drag and drop files into other applications, “which lets them quickly find and act on the items they need,” according to MSN.

MSN also is stressing privacy protection for consumers, since the Search Toolbar is built on the current Windows security and privacy model, using Windows authentication and user account information.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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