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Delving Into Encarta Answers

In the initial MSN Search Beta release we introduced a feature called Encarta Answers. This provides direct answers to all sorts of questions related to geographical locations, historical figures, definitions, calculations, conversions, and simple equations.  Encarta Answers show the exact answer to your question or query right at the top of the MSN Search results pages.

Here are just a few examples of things you can do with Encarta Answers:
  - What is the population of Sweden?
  - What is the largest volcano on Mars?
  - Who is Nolan Bushnell?
  - How many calories in spinach?
  - How many inches in 2.5 feet?
  - x^2 + 4x - 17 = 32
  - What is cryptozoology?

One of the biggest things we’re doing with the new MSN Search is giving a 2 hour “free pass” to all Encarta encyclopedia articles whenever you click an Encarta link on an MSN Search page.  This means that all clicks from Encarta Answers and algorithmic links in MSN Search will give you free access to all the encyclopedia articles in Encarta and their associated media for 2 hours.

And, any time you go back to MSN Search, do another search, and click on an Encarta link, we’ll reset your free pass back up to 2 hours.

There still will be some things that you can’t get to with the free pass, such as Encarta’s homework tools, archives, sidebars, etc., but you’ll never again have to worry about clicking on a “Learn more about …” link in Encarta Answers and not actually being able to learn more.

We’ve spent the last few months increasing our Encarta Answers data set to over 1,500,000 facts and definitions that we can return.  That’s an increase of 50% since the beta!

In addition to everything else you could do before, you can now also get facts about many more historical figures, nutritional information about basic foods, sporting events winners, prize winners, and many more general reference items.

Here are a few examples that show just the tip of the iceberg of the new things we can answer with Encarta Answers in MSN Search:
  - What do elephants eat?
  - When was the Hundred Years war?
  - Who won the World Series in 1920?
  - What is a fear of cats?
  - How much vitamin C in an orange?

You can now go to the Encarta tab in MSN Search to narrow your search only to Encarta pages.  This Encarta focused search results page will also display richer Encarta encyclopedia article previews for an article that matches your query.  In addition to having a great text preview of an article, we will also show links straight to lists of related Encarta articles, media, maps, search results, or even to a specific section of an Encarta encyclopedia article related to your search.

This same Encarta tab search is also available through the new homepage.

We hope that you like all of the great integration between MSN Search and Encarta.  We’ve had fun working on it, and we hope you have fun using it and find it useful.  Please send us feedback and your ideas on how we can make it even better.

-- John Solaro, Encarta PM


  • Aw, my favorite quadratic equation doesn't work :(
    x^2 + 7x + 53 = 11/3
  • if it can do this: x^2 + 4x - 17 = 32

    why not this: 4 + 7
    result: 11

    is that a feature that is coming?
  • Eric: What were you trying to do? I tried typing in:
    4 + 7
    4 + 7 = x

    and in all cases it gave me 11 at the top. Did you use a different syntax that didn't work?
  • I don't like how a poorly phrased question like "value of the dollar versus the yen" gets a poorly phrased answer: 1-9 of 63,023 containing value of the dollar versus the yen (0.26 seconds)*

    I would be willing to wait longer for a better answer. I would hope that part of Encarta's knowledge would be current enough to know today's yen and dollar with web services and partners. I want more value. A chart of the value over time followed by links on the _subject_. Subject is illusive when connecting language to knowledge with logic.

    I enjoyed Hugo Liu's prenetation at Lightweight Languages. I think engines with a predefined context would be the next great breakthrough in search. Being able to add the Site: and find answers to "How do I return an Item?" or "BBQ red with wheels".

    * Something else I noted, both MSN and Goolgle have as the first link, MSN has an article from Nov 22, Google has an article from today, Feb 4.
  • Q: What is a fear of cats?
    A: Dogs.
  • It's that kind of features that user really love, being able to ask something and get the answer right away. Good job. Are you planning to include this feature in the other diferent languages of MSN Search?
  • Wouldn't it be brilliant if Encarta was free?!?
    And then I wouldn't be using wikipedia as my encyclopedia on the web.

    Thing is, the internet *is* an encyclopedia. So, if I can't find what I want on Wikipedia, I'll just browse round the web more. I'd prefer to do that than shell out for Encarta Online.

    Nevertheless, Encarta Answers on the search is a great feature.
  • » Encarta Answers In MSN Search  InsideMicrosoft - part of the Blog News Channel
  • Mmm... Looks like everything isn't in Encarta ;)
  • Don't worry. It doesn't even know who itself is:

    which are, of course, both correct.
  • Ah, but if you're searching for something specific like that, you always should put quotation marks around it.

    You then get:
  • You don't have an equivalent to Google Suggest.

    You don't have an equivalent to Google Video, crap as it is yet.

    You don't have an equivalent to Google Maps (at least not a free one).

    Face it, you're losing the search war. I'm sure you're competing adequately enough by virtue of being default homepage, but featurewise, you're losing. What a shame.
  • What are the chances of us being able to post questions in future like;

    What is 'hello' in French?

    And it return the right results. That's right - a language translator.
  • I haven't found the HTML code to put a MSN search box into a website. Meaning (search web or search Maybe I have just missed it.