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Microsoft's aggressive search plans revealed

News aggregation for Web logs and a social-networking service are on the table, executives say.

REDMOND, Wash.--Microsoft plans to introduce a news aggregation service for Web logs and to develop a social networking product, a company executive said on Friday.

Speaking at the company's annual online advertising conference, Yusuf Mehdi, MSN's corporate vice president of information and merchant services, spoke about the company's "big investment" in search. He highlighted MSN's recent release of a search toolbar for the browser and its new News Search, which aims to deliver more relevant results using personalization.

In addition, he flagged planned Web log and social-networking products, and said the Microsoft division plans to develop natural language-processing algorithms. This technology would permit visitors to ask questions such as "What's the highest mountain?" instead of using simple keywords.

Mehdi declined to elaborate on the upcoming search service, but hinted at some research areas. He said one in two search requests currently go unanswered and that there are a number of ways to improve on that. One is to learn more about the searchers, in order to give better results.

Microsoft's search rival Google has been developing a social networking service, known as Orkut, which it plans to integrate into its search service within the next year.

On Thursday, CEO Steve Ballmer said he regretted Microsoft had not spent more on in-house search research and development in the past, but said the company has addressed the oversight and plans to unveil its own search product within the next 12 months.