For American users it offers a breaking news bar, and an interesting local news option on the right-hand side of the page. Presumably they haven’t yet factored in IP-recognition for the rest of the world yet, as here in old blighty both the search page and results pages look even more barren than critics States-side are describing it.
Maybe now isn’t the best time to appraise the engine from a UK perspective, given they clearly haven’t fully factored in our use of it yet, and I’d be doing it half-blind in any case as at the time of writing the official Live search blog still hasn’t officially released any info on the engine yet (i.e. how many sources, etc.). But some UK sources are already available, and I like a challenge! Now and then…
Some of the functions are universal, regardless of where you live. From the home page there are lists of Top News Topics, and Popular News Queries – how these are distinguished is as yet unclear (presumably they are applying editorial policy to determine the former). Selecting one of these subjects, say Christina silva miss california, and beyond the 20 results returned, you can opt for Video – which brings back lots of Youtube content, which will automatically play when you roll-over. That’s serious browny points over Google News – especially as much of this content is syndicated – and perfect for embedding in your blog. And there are other filtering options too – Click on the More drop-down above the results, and you can select from mapped content (if you are searching by place), classifieds, feeds (not particularly up-to-date this section, I decided after a couple of searches) and some others.
In terms of the conventional written news content, MSN’s seem significantly under-sourced and behind the times by comparison with Google’s. A search for Carlos Cuellar (for those of you unfamiliar with the vageries of Scottish football – Glasgow Ranger’s star player, playing tonight in a crucial Old Firm game) returned 121 results, the latest being some 7 hours ago. 7 hours! Over at Google, there were 450 results, the most recent (if you order by date, rather than the clustered groups which are default) less than an hour ago.
Of course less sources means there’s no need for the clustering ‘relevance’ ordering Google News does – which it has to be said has its strengths and weaknesses. That is to say, sometimes the subject of a news search will feature in more than one story breaking at the same time (say Gordon Brown visiting America, and speaking out about Zimbabwe), which falls awkwardly somewhere between relevance and date ordering. And in this sense, having less content makes it easier to chose what to look at. Of course some of the 4,500 sources Google News boasts duplicate each other, so in that sense it is beneficial to cut through the chafe.
Google I’d argue still has easily the upper-hand in terms of personalisation. That is to say, you can organise the page around your subject areas, and even create your own bespoke sections, based on an alert you can set up with your own key-words to return you personalised content.
Google also has a news archive search, albeit much of the content here is subscription only. Hence why its always a good idea to inquire at your local library to find out if they carry either NewsUK or Newsbank.
So maybe its a bit early to be drawing cast-iron conclusions – but for now I’ll be sticking to Google News. And Newsnow, and Digg (you cannot whack a bit of serendipity when your looking for news). And Bloglines. And so on…
UPDATE: It’s now the third of June, and still no local content for UK users. Tut!