MSN Prepopulates their UK Search Box with "The Apprentice BBC"

Mar 28, 2007 • 12:45 pm | comments (7) by twitter | Filed Under Bing Search

According to threads at both DigitalPoint Forums and Search Engine Roundtable Forums, MSN in the UK is showing that the search box is prefilled with "The Apprentice BBC." This was actually spotted this morning but I was able to reproduce it just now.

The screenshot can be seen below:

MSN UK Prefill Search Box Ad

Barry blogged about it on Search Engine Land as well.

Is this a brokerage deal between Microsoft and the BBC? Danny is following up with both Microsoft and the BBC.

I'm not sure I'm enthusiastic about this implementation and would hope that it does not go further than this "experiment." It would be completely confusing to users who have no intention to search for anything related to "The Apprentice" or whatever else might end up being prepopulated in those search boxes. Even newer users will wonder where they are supposed to search now.

Forum discussions continue at DigitalPoint Forums and SERoundtable Forums. Hat tip to gabs.

Update from Barry: To me, it is looking less to be an ad. More at MSN UK Shows More Prepopulated Kewyords in Search Box.

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Barry Schwartz

03/28/2007 04:58 pm

This can be a slippery slope...


03/28/2007 05:49 pm

Let's be the Devil's advocate.... Why would this be a problem? In terms of website real estate, this spot is it! The search box is what most people use on that website and when you want to search for something you will take the prefilled phrase away anyway. As for whether or not it is confusing: that's like saying the "Premium Sponsor" banners in the top-left corner on this website are confusing and should not be used. But that's what advertising is; getting people to click without trying to mislead them too much. Comments are welcome, rants not so much.

Barry Schwartz

03/28/2007 06:02 pm

It is like having Microsoft put ads in your blank Microsoft Word document. This is no different.

Brian Rants

03/28/2007 06:25 pm

There is certainly nothing "unethical" about this. Microsoft is a business and can choose to involve advertisers any way they want. However, it underscores the difference in philosophy from Google (see Google's 10 commandments). Perhaps for a segment of users this is desirable. They actually want a search engine to pre-populate a search term. If I was a betting man though, I would wager that segment is very, very small...and it does not include me.


03/28/2007 10:03 pm

Problem... Its a big problem imho.. Msn has said what i'm going to search the second I get on the page... I very interesting imho.. I google load up with "mortgages" or "pills" would that be ok ? I think not.. Msn is still a search engine.. PS. Whats a hat tip Tamar ? (sorry dumb englishman;) )

Rene LeMerle

03/29/2007 05:21 am

folks - i think this might be a case of "much ado about nothing". I am all for leaving advertising/promotion out of the search box...but as i pointed out in my post (access via my display name) it could be a case of MSN testing some user experience improvements rather than selling the search box. Whether the idea of pre-populating the search box with common searches is a good user journey - i'm still not 100% convinced...but it's alot more ethical than selling the space.


04/28/2008 09:30 am

Looks like your computer will be partly onwned by searchengine now. Still not new, I was annoyed when installing firefox it made a connection to google.

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