Microsoft Rush Out New Toolbar

Microsoft’s MSN have gone the way of Google and launched a toolbar that also blocks pop-ups.

To explain the business behind this business, read the excellent Microsoft Monitor. It points out that Google’s toolbar does all this already, and is at the same time diverting searches away from Microsoft. Given that a ‘sizeable chunk’ of Microsoft’s ad revenue comes from paid searches, this hurts. Hence the toolbar, which, like Internet Explorer’s default search engine (and most other Microsoft products), will take you to MSN. As Microsoft Watch points out, this is the old MSN search engine, not their spanking new one.

Then there’s the pop-up blocker. Microsoft Monitor reckon that “40 percent of consumers say they find traditional pop-up ads to be the most annoying forms of on online advertising”. Internet Explorer doesn’t block ads, and won’t until the release of a Windows XP Service Pack (a kind of add-on, pulling together all the updates since the last Service Pack) later this year. It’s clear Microsoft can’t wait that long, hence the toolbar.

Software: Google’s new Toolbar

 Google have just launched a new version of their toolbar for Internet Explorer. Toolbars are extra lines of buttons that add themselves to your browser, offering links, pull down menus and whatnot. In this case, Google’s toolbar allows you to do Google searches without actually going to Google’s search page. It’s actually a great tool, although arguably Opera’s built  in toolbar is even better.
Google’s new toolbar, 2.0, adds a couple of interesting features. One is designed to block pop-up windows, another helps you fill in online forms by storing your details for you; the third feature is for bloggers like me, adding whatever site your browser is looking at to be added to a blog (this only works for sites running Blogger software, which was recently bought by Google.) Another new feature they don’t mention very much, but which could be useful, is Search Country. Say you have Google Canada set as your search page in the toolbar’s options, then this feature would limit your searches to Canadian websites.
Me? I’ve long loved the toolbar, but mainly for its Page Info function, which lets you check out a list of sites similar to the one you’re looking at. Seems that Google aren’t really building on this great feature: in Toolbar 2.0 that button is switched off by default.