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Microsoft Testing Rival to Google's Start Page 625

Posted by timothy
from the well-you-certainly-are-similar dept.
aer0 writes "It looks like Microsoft has quietly put up their version of Google's start page. It's interesting in several ways. First, the layout and use of javascript is strikingly similar to Google's. Second, one of the few major differences is that there is no MS equivalent banner or other flashing indication that it is an MS site."
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Microsoft Testing Rival to Google's Start Page

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  • oooops (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@NospAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @09:17PM (#13227284) Journal

    for me, the last line on the page:

    ©2005 Microsoft &nbsp

    kind of says it all... In their hurry to rip off the competition, they even forgot a semicolon... Tsk-tsk!

    • It's called "only tested on IE". (IE will render '&nbsp' as a non-breaking space.)
      • It's called horrible web design. Couldn't have taken 2 seconds to run it through the W3C checker? What type of idiot uses character entity codes without a semicolon after it anyways? (e.g. )

        Man, we learned that in high school.
        • Speaking of seconds, the Google page rendered almost instantly on my G4 iBook with OS 10.4.2 and Firefox 1.0.6. I could have gone for a cup of coffee (if I drank coffee) by the time the MS page finally rendered. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but the MS page took a rrrreeeeaaaallllyyyy lllloooonnnngggg ttttiiiimmmmeeee to finally show up. Besides, the MS page wanted to set a cookie, which I quickly declined, whereas the Google page did not.

          YMMV

          SiO2
    • I was reading the Scobelizer and he referenced this page. It's made by one or two summer interns, and development is still in progress. Give it time -- competition is good.

      - shadowmatter
    • Re:oooops (Score:2, Insightful)

      by daytrip00 (473461)
      I can't believe you guys. The lashing start.com has gotten makes slashdotters look like a bunch of immature kiddies. Please! Start.com is an expirimental site mostly made by two people (now 3). If you want to watch a video with the creators, you can go here [msdn.com].

      Instead of thoughtful analysis, we get this thought process:
      1. OOOH, another Microsoft product to bash!
      2. Go to site
      3. Look furously for any mistakes or problems no matter how small.
      4. Post on slashdot: MICROSOFT SUCKS!!! LINUX RULEZ! We are l33t hax0rs!!!

      Come

      • Look furously for any mistakes

        Didn't have to look furiously at all - that broken &nbsp is right there in plain sight, rendered almost immediately as it's plain text. Noticed it right away while waiting for the site to finish loading...

      • Look like a bunch of immature kiddies? C'mon, /. is a bunch of immature kiddies!

        Funny thing is, up until about a year ago, there were actually news items on /. that got referenced by aggregators like Google News. Then, I guess, somebody caught on.

        -h-
      • you must not be browsing at the right threshold ;)

        all I see is a bunch of insightul discussion about the usefulness of the start.com page... then again I only have half a page of text to scroll through.

        it's kinda like usenet that way, nothing taco does ever really 'silences' the idiots... but experienced users can quickly and easily filter out all the useless commentary and only read the useful stuff.

        then again, someone has to bother reading through all the junk to bother to moderate it appropriately... oh
      • Their Javascript is broken, at least so says Konqueror.

        Error:
        http://www.start.com/extern/wsfw/compat/0.072605.0 /msncompat.js [start.com]:
        SyntaxError: Parse error at line 85

        Error:
        http://www.start.com/extern/wsfw/core/0.072605.1/m sncore.js [start.com]:
        TypeError: Value undefined (result of expression window.attachEvent) is not an object. Cannot be called.

        Error: http://www.start.com/3/ [start.com]: TypeError:
        Undefined value

    • by steverman (240150) on Wednesday August 03, 2005 @04:39AM (#13229038) Homepage
      (I posted this as a new topic earlier. I hope I don't end up in karma hell for re-posting it as a reply like I should have...)

      I work on start.com and am one of the 3 folks on the team, and wow, I thought for sure we would have been slashdotted before this :) This is my first post on slashdot, though I have been reading for several years now. I just wanted to make a few replies to the comments I've been seeing.

      I've been seeing a ton of posts about how we copied google. Man you guys are tough! I'm surprised most people think this since they released their page not too long ago and we released our first version back in March. It was March 6th to be exact. I remember the date. It was my birthday :)

      Here's a basic timeline which I also saw posted in another slashdot post somewhere:
      - March 6th, http://start.com/1 [start.com]
      - April 6th, http://start.com/2 [start.com]
      - May 20th(?), google's personalized page
      - June 6th, http://start.com/3 [start.com]

      We did notice when google shipped their page in May and I have to admit we were like "darn, they have drag/drop before we do" and "man they have a gmail module, we need to get ours working". But honestly in this space we are both sooooo just scratching the surface here and there are a TON of things that can be done. I have 2 whiteboards full of stuff, like our massive todo list and crazy feature ideas. I bet their whiteboards are full too :) Seriously, the fun is just beginning.

      There is a video of me and one of the other 3 members of the team at http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=9022 9 [msdn.com]. We talk a little bit about the history of start and some of the development. The video is really long, but it's a good glimpse of our culture, how we started, and how we do things on the team.

      Now that I look back I remember that we had shipped live to the web in late February, two weeks before we got discovered. The whole effort started back in November. We were doing a series of prototypes to show how the web can actually be fast again. I mean seriously, we have these huge pipes and fast connections and so many people are on broadband, why are we stuck downloading all this unnecessary crap like flash images, unnecessary UI that I'm not interested in, more ad content than content, just to read 3 pages of an article? So we tried some prototypes, showed it to our boss, then found an old unused domain called start.com that MSN owned and thought it would be cool to just put the code out on the web to show our friends. We put it on http://start.com/1 [start.com] to make it not totally obvious, then waited to see how long it would take for someone to stumble across it. It took 2 weeks. I remember the day (remember, it was my birthday!) and coming in to work to find a ton of blog posts all over the blogosphere about it. It was pretty cool. Some guy even made a screencast of it a few days later (the site seems to be down now) in the same style that Jon Udell had done with google maps.

      Anyway, sorry about the servers running slow. We're an incubation site and we just migrated onto shiny new hardware a few weeks back and we're still working out the kinks. Tonight Slashdot sent us about 15x the traffic we normally get and we've been having fun watching the servers keep up with the load. Seriously, if you got burned tonight, try it again tomorrow.

      I noticed one of the posts mention that we use a cookie. Yeah we do, we use it to index your settings on the back-end. The last thing we wanted to do was slap on a huge LOGIN TO PASSPORT page before you can even do anything since a) our target audience (you guys) would probably thing that was lame and wouldn't even try the site out and b) we use start.com too and *we* think that would be lame. We want peo
  • Note the default picks on the stock ticker: GOOG, MSFT, and YHOO. In that order!
  • Start loaded noticeably slower for me than Google. Here are some site statistics.

    http://www.start.com/3/ [start.com]
    Total Size: 264510 bytes
    Connection Rate/Download Time: 56K 54.12 seconds ISDN 128K 17.54 seconds T1 1.44Mbps 2.80 seconds

    http://www.google.com/ig [google.com] Total Size: 17999 bytes
    Connection Rate/Download Time: 56K 3.59 seconds ISDN 128K 1.10 seconds T1 1.44Mbps 0.10 seconds

    I don't know about you, but for me one of the best features for Google is how quickly it loads. For MS to grab my vote they're going

    • Could that possibly be, oh I dunno, because Start is an experiment ran on experimental servers, where as Google's start page is a Beta ran on production servers?

      Could it not also, possibly be because of a well known effect that's named for this very website?
    • Is that because of the slashdotting it's getting? Yes, I know. It's Microsoft. But perhaps this service is on a not-as-important server that isn't built to stand up to a slashdotting.

      If that's your only reason to not use it, I'd wait a few days and try again ;)

      Having said that, first time it timed-out. Second time it did it in a comparable speed with Google (if not a bit faster).
    • If you want your browser to open most quickly, set the home page to about:blank. Coupled with something like the Google Toolbar, you have everything you need quickly!
  • and the missing ; after &nbsp
  • when Yahoo had a start page long before Google?
  • It looks remarkably like the sharepoint portal page. Guess they have to find SOME use for that technology...

    Jerry
    http://www.cyvin.org/ [cyvin.org]
    • Sharepoint is actually very useful. It's just too bad its HTML requires IE when it comes to checking out and checking in documents. It's a saviour for our distributed team. We no longer have to teach marketers how to use developer tools (source control app), nor do we have to put up with vagaries of who's working on what document on the network, and nor do we inbox and outbox bloat on the mail server from sending too many documents via email.
  • GOOG 299.19
    MSFT 26.81

    It's been a while since I looked at the stocks, but MS is kindof dipping low. Did they just split or something?
    • Considering how Google has a volume of 7.3 million shares and Microsoft 138 million shares, I would say you are comparing apples and oranges by strictly looking at stock price.
      • by aonaran (15651)
        Considering how Google has a volume of 7.3 million shares and Microsoft 138 million shares, I would say you are comparing apples and oranges by strictly looking at stock price.

        On the other hand...

        GOOG +7.58
        MSFT +0.89 ...is kind of amusing.
        • Big deal. As an investor, MSFT is much more attractive, as it's trading at 23 times earnings and is paying a decent dividend.

          The speculation on Google's stock right now is pretty asinine at the moment. You would have thought "investors" would have learned after the late 90's bubble that no company has unlimited potential. With Google trading at 87.66 times earnings, I'm waiting for the bubble to burst on it too.
        • Re:Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

          by toopc (32927)
          On the other hand...

          GOOG +7.58

          MSFT +0.89 ...is kind of amusing.

          That's amusing only if you don't understand percentages. Look at a 1 year chart, that's amusing.

      • True, but the last time I was paying attention, MSFT was around $50/share.
    • You need to look at merket capitalization (number of shares outstanding * share price)

      GOOG $83 billion
      MSFT $289 billion

      If you want to look at big numbers, look up BRK-A. Warren doesn't see the rationale behind stock splits.
    • by DaHat (247651)
      A couple of years ago was the last one. Rather than just compare the stock price, be sure to look at the total number of outstanding shares for each and their corresponding total Market capitalization.

      Quoting from:

      Google [msn.com]
      Market Cap. 83.11 Bil
      Tot. Shares Out. 277.8 Mil

      Microsoft [msn.com]
      Market Cap. 287.1 Bil
      Tot. Shares Out. 10.71 Bil

      So from that we end up with Microsoft being worth about ~3.4 as much as Google.

      With a little more math we predict that if Google had as many outstanding shares a
  • Weird. Just a "start" header and then a text box with a submit button. Really exciting. Oh, hang on.. it must be just like their old version which also doesn't do anything on Safari.

    And why, oh, why, does MSN always give me results pages in Spanish? I'm in the UK darn it.
  • There is no way that MS wrote that page. Let's look at why:
    1. There is dynamic content on the page AND it works in Firefox.
    2. If you click on the "Start" button in the upper left, they list Slashdot as a "staff pick" feed.
    3. I know that I might be on some kind of illicit substance here, but if you click on the "we're hiring" link at the bottom... they use transparent PNG's!

    Aside from the domains and content, the only thing that makes it look like MS designed the page is the fact that it fails the W3C validator [w3.org]. Eve

    • > There is no way that MS wrote that page. Let's look at why:

      Yea they wrote it. Remember this is just a research project so they can use markup their current shipping client doesn't support. Before actually deploying it they would either change the markup or add what they need to IE. But something like this probably won't go production for a while so it would be daft to limit themselves to what is in their current browser.
  • I think it's pretty cool how it doesn't load everything at once. Faster, anyway.
  • cool (Score:2, Informative)

    by poppen_fresh (65995)
    One cool new feature that Google's start page doesn't seem to have: when you click on a story, you can get a preview in a sort of popup window, without having to leave the site.

    Even if this is Microsoft, competition is always good for us as it tends to make everyone improve.

  • Research (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alienfluid (677872) on Tuesday August 02, 2005 @09:24PM (#13227353) Homepage
    It hasn't been "quietly" put up on the internet - it has been there for a while. MS uses it for testing and research. If you do notice, it is WAY better than Google's start page too - you can actually drag the various sections on the page and place them anywhere on the page. By the way, I mentioned the page before : here [slashdot.org]
    • Re:Research (Score:3, Interesting)

      by doubleyewdee (633486)
      Correct. I've only been working here (MSN Search Ops) for about three months, but start.com was old news when I got here. It appears to have been in the sandbox for quite a long time. In general Slashdot form it's assumed that this is a copy of Google's thing, but I think they're both copies of Yahoo's thing this time. :) Still, start.com is fun to play with. It makes for a nice homepage.
      • It makes for a nice homepage.

        From Opera 8.01 on Suse Linux 9.3, it makes for a rather useless, do-nothing homepage

        • Re:Research (Score:3, Insightful)

          by doubleyewdee (633486)
          Sorry to hear that. If you wouldn't mind sending feedback you can to startfb@microsoft.com [mailto] and let them know what's up. I don't believe (conspiracy theories or otherwise) that it is anyone on the team's intentions to lock out other browsers. Let them know what's up, and I'm sure someone will take a look at this. :)
    • "you can actually drag the various sections on the page and place them anywhere on the page"

      The start.com page seems to have been /.ed so I can't tell what you mean, but the customizable Google start page lets you drag and drop sections.

    • It hasn't been "quietly" put up on the internet - it has been there for a while. MS uses it for testing and research. If you do notice, it is WAY better than Google's start page too


      Google supports this as well.
    • I wish I had mod points to rate the parent as overrated or troll. Google's version has drag and drop of sections, and you can add your own with it.

      ALSO, Google's version works with Safari, while the MS version doesn't.
    • You can drag the google boxes around as well you know.
    • It hasn't been "quietly" put up on the internet - it has been there for a while. MS uses it for testing and research. If you do notice, it is WAY better than Google's start page too

      Yeah, the "quietly" qualifier definitely gets abused and misapplied in story blurbs; I see at as part of the slashdot socialization.

      Also, I agree that start.com has more functions Google's start page, but in order for it to be "way better", it's going to have to load a lot faster. In my experience, even Yahoo's hefty start page l
  • I don't like the fact that links' targets don't show when the cursor goes over them. I never quite trust sites/links that do that.
  • Namely, the Shut Down button.
  • The MS page is slow and the design really ...erm sucks? I mean, this looks like some 15 yr old got the task to quickly put together a webpage.

    The google one is at least in the google design, the MS one is ... erm ... like MS, never in design.
    • I hope you are joking. The design clearly imitates http://www.google.com/ig [google.com] and it's not far from being an exact replica, sans coloring and placement modifcations. Why should an experimental site be limited to the generic style of previous sites produced by the same entity (in this case, Microsoft)? To say that its design sucks for that reason is hardly convincing.
  • Innovate. v. 1. Imitate.
  • As the title says, the site doesn't seem to render anything other than the search bar in safari. It works fine in firefox. Anyone on KDE care to comment on whether it works in konq?
    • Doesn't work on Konqueror either. I get the following Javascript errors with Konqueror 3.4.1:

      Error: http://www.start.com/extern/wsfw/compat/0.072605.0 /msncompat.js: SyntaxError - Parse error at line 85
      Error: http://www.start.com/extern/wsfw/core/0.072605.1/m sncore.js: TypeError - Value undefined (result of expression window.attachEvent) is not an object. Cannot be called.
      Error: http://www.start.com/3/: TypeError - Attempted to access 'Init' property on undefined object (result of expression Msn.Runtime.I
    • Just a "start" logo and a search bar.
  • Bad naming... "I've googled for it but nothing came up" vs "I've started on it but nothing came up".
  • There seems to be multiple version of 'Start':
    1. Page 1 [start.com]
    2. Page 2 [start.com]
    3. Page 2 [start.com]
    • There seems to be multiple version of 'Start':
      1. Page 1 [start.com]
      2. Page 2 [start.com]
      3. Page 3 [start.com]
    • So the first time I clicked on each of those links the page never changed from "Loading..." underneath the search bar. Eventually they did when I reloaded the page but while these are interesting sites, Google is still much faster. Unless of course, its only the /. effect.

      The first two pages have relatively normal search results pages, while the third uses a fancy overlay box thing that is horribly slow and unreliable. The first time I tried searching for linux it just made a box asking "Web News RSS"

  • Hopefully google has some patents they've secured - this is sickening.

    (Flattery by imitation?)

    • Err, yeah ... Microsoft has gotten so good at ripping off other people's products, they are now capable of doing so years before their competition even thinks of creating one.

      (fyi...this page has existed for several years)
  • Second, one of the few major differences is that there is no MS equivalent banner or other flashing indication that it is an MS site.

    That's because the marketing crew hasn't gotten ahold of this service yet. Wait till it gets filtered through the entire MS camp and then we will see where that current minimalistic approach goes.

  • It is extremely slow trending to dead following this /. article.
  • If it gets faster, I'll use it. I'd love to use the Google homepage, but when opening the browser it always opens the page logged out and I have to refresh to view it logged in.
  • Sure, nameserver MSFT, but tucows as registrar? What's up with that?

  • I use firefoxes native google search page as my home page, for all the other fruit, I have bookmarks... maybe I am just old, but it just the portal idea all over again.

    First thing I do is move away from my homepage, normaly via a search or to a book mark to fark, ars or /.

    Yay, it has the weather on it, I can know what its like outside, no need to look out the window...
  • From what I can tell, all of the advanced functionality, and better results. Nice! It's gonna be my homepage for a week or so to test out!
  • If you look at the source code, you'll notice that they're using the IE hack to make transparent pngs work properly... so apparently even Microsoft hates that bug!
  • every link opens in a new window, and middle click doesn't work. bah.
  • Even with IE forcing MSN as their start page, I bet most users are not using it. People like Google. This may come as a shock to M$ but some people like to use OTHER companies' software! Yes, there are other competent developers on the planet. This is why I loath M$.
  • Anybody reading, posting after this... I *JUST* saw it change. 10:01 PM, EST
  • Just for yucks - I went to both pages, in different window and typed in the same search phrase, at random; "floating cars".

    Google instantly came up with (oddly) relevant seeming hits.

    Microsoft came up with all kinds of stuff - only one had to do with "floating cars" (whatever that means) and most just having to do with "floating"...

    So, as usual, next time I have a search (even if it is for random odd words), I will use Google...

  • OK, I liked the first results... but they literally just changed the page 2 minutes ago. Now I like it even more! So fucking slick. Nice eye candy!
  • The page is so overwhelmed by text at the bottom that I complete missed the *main feature* search bar at the top. It took me 5-seconds to realise it's there. Layout and information display is an art: there's more than meets the eye.
  • Call me stubborn will you, but I haven't changed my homepage from the local ISP I was using back in the mid-90s (surprisingly they are still around and growing). Dunno why, force of habit I guess.
  • ...it's hiddeous!
  • I mean, the google copying is getting out of control. Had a look at MSN search results lately? They do everything the same, even with similar looking HTML. Its lame.
  • I'm still sticking with about:blank for my homepage, though. No chance of that getting slashdotted.... :)
  • They override browser settings and force underlining on links.

    Not everyone has 19-year-old eyes that can read big blocks of underlined text, especially low-contrast text. The only skin that doesn't have the underlines is "granite" but the bright blue is even harder to read.

    Let the user choose if they want underlines or not. That's why there's a setting for it. (even in IE)
  • They should make the page be perpetually in beta.
  • Comparing it to google's is like comparing an airplane to a kite. How about some RSS feeds on Google's page? MS page is a lot more dynamic, too, and has better design. Finally, it has _zero_ branding on it which is something I've grown to appreciate.
  • changing the 3 to a 2 in the url (http://www.start.com/2/default.aspx [start.com]) shows another version of the page that looks strikingly similar to the google personalized homepage... including adding IE favorites to the page, as well as other "incubation experiments" i.e. Google Lab(ish), see http://sandbox.msn.com/ [msn.com].
  • Its interesting to note that if you click the "Start" logo, under Popular Links - Staff Picks there is a link to Slashdot!

    Boricle

  • by zeno_2 (518291)
    Innovation at its finest...
  • Anyone see it as odd that the google stock quote is listed above the MSFT/Yahoo stock quotes?

    almost as if they couldnt help paying homage to the original...
  • Google's personalized search still looks slicker.

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