RealTime IT News

MSN Testing RSS Reader

Not to be outdone in the search features race, MSN quietly turned on a new version of Start.com, a different take on the personalized search home page.

The default Start.com page contains a search bar at the top, with weather, stock quotes and a few RSS feeds. Users can select from a menu of suggested feeds or add their own. The application discovers available feeds from a specific URL without the user having to load the XML page.

Start.com users can customize the page by dragging around each element, or clicking on a box to delete it. Start.com also keeps track of the user's recent searches. Alternatively, the whole shebang can be hidden with one click, leaving only the search bar.

Start.com mirrors the minimalism of Google's recently launched personal start page, whereas My MSN offers the multiple content types and functions of My Yahoo.

Before users can play around with the beta application, they must answer five questions; links to an MSN search are beside each question. The game highlights Encarta Answers, which began to be used in results with the launch of MSN's proprietary search technology in November 2004.

Google launched answers-type results in April 2005, while Ask Jeeves has offered its Smart Answers, pulled from structured data, for some time. Ask Jeeves recently added answers pulled from the Web.

Microsoft isn't talking about how Start.com fits into its search and portal plans. The Start.com opening page advises, "This site is not an officially supported site. It is an incubation experiment and doesn't represent any particular strategy or policy."