If you use MSN’s web search for “linux windows,” it returns sixteen web pages with both those words on them. Try it!

If you use Google for the same search, it returns almost nine million web pages.

What’s going on? This author makes a mistake and argues that it demonstrates Microsoft’s censorship of its web search results. That’s not quite right.

Instead, it demonstrates how these services can be intentionally misleading – or if you’re feeling generous, just designed very badly.

There’s a tiny “Next” on the top of MSN’s search results. Since the page purports to display “1 through 15 of about 16” search results, you’d expect the next page to have the one remaining link. Instead, clicking on it takes you to a page that shows results 16-30 – of about nine million web pages.

It turns out that the first page of MSN’s search results shows results from MSN’s “web directory” – and it’s unclear, but there’s a strong likelihood that the first page of search results has essentially been sold to the highest bidder. At the least, it makes their search hard to use and it confuses people. (It confused me when I first heard about it.) Since MSN search is the default search engine for Internet Explorer, it’s another example of how Microsoft gives ammunition to the detractors complaining about its anticompetitive behavior.

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