Bill Gates's Microsoft is now hoping to clinch a large slice of the lucrative market with the arrival of its new MSN Search facility.
A key feature allows users to ask specific questions such as 'What
is the capital of Peru?'' and 'What is the largest ocean in the
The answers are provided by an on-line version of Microsoft's Encarta encyclopaedia which has more than 1.4 million entries.
The new search engine is also billed as providing the most up-to-date information by refreshing its list of around five billion websites every two days compared with every two weeks in other cases.
The benefit for users is that they access the latest results and have a better chance of avoiding sites which are down. There are also a number of helpful tools that give people more control over how and where they search.
Microsoft is making its money from MSN Search in a similar way to Google - through 'sponsored links''. These appear at the top of the screen or down the side and relate to the search made. Microsoft has run the service on a trial basis for a number of months but is now launching the final version.