The beta version of the new UK-based search engine MSE360 has attracted praise from both sides of the Atlantic with a three-tier display, clean design and other unique features such as virus alerts. I caught up with its Lead Programmer Daniel Clarke to talk about his plans, what MSE360 can offer journalists and researchers, and how a UK search engine can find elbow room in a crowded market.
Insite: ‘MSE360′ – what does the name mean?
“MSE Stands for Multi Search Engine, 360 for 360 degrees.”
Are you a UK team based in the UK?
“Yeah, we’re based in Kent, UK. All staff are based in the UK and we pride ourselves on that. Britain has some of the best minds when it comes to technology, after all, the internet was born from a British Inventor, Tim Berners-Lee.”
There are lots of search engines out there – some doing a great job and some that are not so good. Some of your friends must have suggested that the market is already crowded. How did you respond?
“Indeed, very much so, the market is at a stage where it’s hard to make any sense of a push, and we’ve been told many times that the market has no room for another search engine. We respond with the facts. 90% of the new search engines that launch do so without bringing new or exciting features. Cuil has a slightly different user interface, but that was limited and the technology really didn’t live up the hype. We don’t know if we shall succeed or die out, but if no one tries then what’s to push the larger search engines from improving? Percentage of search market is irrelevant to us, some people have told us that they will be switching to MSE from other search engines, so as long as we make a few people happy, I think we’ve done our job.”
OK – insite and journalism.co.uk readers are busy people. Why should they turn to MSE360 instead of ask.com? What is your main message to the heavy internet users?
“MSE360 was created to speed up the search process. Why navigate between blog search engines, web search engines, image search and Wikipedia if you can find it in one resource? MSE360 brings a lot of sources together in a simple layout. Our anti-virus features also keep the average user safer. We also, unlike other search engines, store no personal information. The fact of the matter is simple, MSE is like marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it.”
I once spent about and hour looking for someone on Google only to find that person as the top hit when I eventually gave up and used another search engine. What will it take to convince internet users – particularly those in the UK – that Google doesn’t have all the answers?
“Google is entrenched in the minds of the British population, and that’s the main challenge for us. We’ve got to change the perception that Google has all the answers. To do that we will be investing in schools to make sure students are not just informed about Google, but the wider range of search engines (such as Ask, Live and MSE). We also are going to focus an advertising campaign on the fact that Google doesn’t have all the answers. But the main factor in this is the technology; we can advertise as much as we want but unless we focus on improving the search our biggest advertising challenge – word of mouth – won’t succeed.
On your site you say you use your own robots and algorithms but you also use partners. Which other search engines do you partner with?
We’re slowly phasing out the external engines, but we use resources from Yahoo and Live Search.
OK – moving on to your unique selling points. Your service is fast, you flag sites that contain viruses, you allow community results and you offer a clean and easy-to-understand 3 tier layout. What else can users expect to see over the coming months?
We have some exciting new features in store. First of all our indexing methods will be changing to provide better results and we’ll be expanding community results and adding a voting system on all results. We plan to allow full customization of the search – from simple layout changes to algorithm changes. The user interface will be improved as will the speed. In the next month we’ll have user added modals which will allow users to add their own search methods, for example torrents or a certain site. 60% of our features come from user suggestions, so there is plenty to come!
One blog recently suggested that MSE360 doesn’t support advanced operator searches. It was very wrong because I’ve used your engine to carry out some complex searches using the advanced operators I can use on Google. Are there any operators you support that Google doesn’t?
We use the standard operators currently (AND OR ELSE etc) but I think this is something we have to improve on. We’re going to be adding content license operators (eg CC25) and algorithm operators, so the user will be able to find sites without adverts, with ‘x’ degree of adverts, etc. I can’t go into too many details, but we’ve got more coming!
Are you planning to implement an advanced search page?
Our beta version currently has an advanced search page, this will go live in the coming weeks.
Are you planning to incorporate any semantic technology into your search service?
We are, but I’m afraid I can’t go into detail on this area yet. In the coming months we’ll release more details in this exciting new area.