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MSN Previews Start.com

09/13/05

Recognizing the ongoing trend of websites, particularly search engines and portals, moving towards customizable and minimalist interfaces, MSN has released a full preview of a new portal it describes as an "incubation experiment". Powered by the MSN search index, Start.com provides internet search results in a monochromatic display of straight lines and simple icons.

Upon first visiting Start.com it's apparent that this is not a search engine meant for mass exposure or revenue potential(yet). Start.com is, however, a test bed for some interesting features that might one day become part of the more popular MSN Search interface. This new site integrates a number of layered effects and content presentations ranging from quizzical "word of the day" and "engadget" to more traditional links for stock quotes and weather. Despite its quirky layout and content, the underlying uniqueness of Start.com is in fact the homepage which allows users to create a custom presentation of content generated by an infinite selection of news and data feeds. Such feeds can be located across the web using an integrated feed-search function and are added to the homepage by simply clicking the "subscribe" link on the resulting page.

For now, Start.com feels more like an after hours experiment from some fun-loving-computer-geeks from Redmond than an actual Microsoft corporate property. The underlying technology is, however, competent and unique and this casual early presentation may help Microsoft shed part of its perceived stiff (lack of) personality.

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