Microsoft just put out a press release announcing the release from beta of Live Search and of Live.com in 47 markets worldwide. The release also says that Live Search will now power search on MSN. The changes don’t appear to have gone into effect yet, but they could at any time.
Live is Microsoft’s key play for the future and new company leader Ray Ozzie has been a vocal advocate of Live in particular and web based software as a service in general. Live.com places new emphasis on customization, RSS, blogs, video and other areas of emerging interest. Start.com was to fulfill a similar function, but when Start lost steam last fall the team posted to their blog calling for engineers interested in working on Live.com.
The company says that MSN attracts 465 million unique users worldwide per month. It’s long been believed that the MSN brand was being fazed out and would be replaced by Live.com as the intended home page and search engine for Microsoft’s huge user base. You could say that Live.com has a much more contemporary feel to it than MSN - or you could say that it’s a weak attempt to mimic Google’s sparse interface that ends up looking unfriendly and awkward. Today’s announcement also underlines the strangeness that Microsoft’s new YouTube competitor is being launched under the MSN brand.