MSN Search Took The Morning Off

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For nearly four hours, Microsoft’s MSN search returned a “service unavailable” message to visitors arriving at search.msn.com yesterday.

"He's dead, Jim!"
-- Dr. McCoy, Star Trek, far too many episodes to list here.

It appeared for a while that Microsoft was in the process of doing what some have expected it to do since its corporate reorganization took place last month: shutting down MSN in favor of Windows Live.

Back in March, Microsoft said of the reorg that it was focused on lining up “Windows and MSN assets with Microsoft’s overall Live strategy.” During yesterday’s outage, MSN Search had this to say to visitors:

This service is currently unavailable

Our team is working to restore service as quickly as possible. Please try your request again later.

Or to paraphrase Edgar Allen Poe, ‘quoth the raven, 404′.

But the service returned after its hiatus. As to where it was during the downtime, no one knows. The MSN Search blog has not been updated since its Search Macros post of March 28th.

The King County Journal reported on an email received from a Microsoft spokesperson that the company was trying to figure out what had happened.

Other than an assortment of chuckles posted at Threadwatch (“They can’t figure out how to restart IIS correctly”; “shouldn’t that screen be blue?”), there hasn’t been much notice of the outage.

Since Windows Live was available during that period, users could still search there. It is strange that Microsoft didn’t place a link on the outage page to Live to try and keep some of that traffic from just punching out and heading to Google or Yahoo instead.

And then MSN Search returned, as quietly as it had departed. New features? None apparent. Back-end upgrade? Unknown.

One guess would be some kind of issue with the contest Microsoft has been running since February. Based on user searches, the contest can make a winner out of someone who queries certain keywords at MSN Search. Prizes range from gift cards to plasma HDTVs, so perhaps the temptation to win something led to an attempted compromise of the service by a third party.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

MSN Search Took The Morning Off
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