Microsoft on Tuesday will begin testing a new online news aggregation service, as part of its growing search rivalry with Google.
In conjunction with its own MSNBC news site, the software giant is creating a page dubbed "Newsbot" that will draw news headlines from more than 4,800 other sites, in a manner similar to the Google News service.
The page will let visitors create their own customized news feeds that are powered by MSN's new search technology, the company said. (Google News offers something similar, but it calls them customized alerts.)
"By providing a variety of ways to personalize the service, people have more control over how and where they get their news," Yusef Mehdi, corporate vice president of MSN Information Services and Merchant Platform, said in a statement. "We're confident (this) will convince people to return every day, much like a neighborhood newsstand."
Although news aggregation services have been a feature of portal sites such as Yahoo since the mid-1990s, the rise of automatic headline services that are based on Web search technology has added new importance to an old idea.
Google's news service has drawn millions of people eager for up-to-the-minute headlines, while worrying some news executives who fear that readers will visit aggregation sites instead of the original publications' home pages.
Microsoft has been increasingly vocal about its goal of recapturing some of Google's momentum in search and related technologies. It launched a new version of its MSN search tool last month, and is working internally on more advanced search tools capable of scouring PCs and e-mail folders as well as Web sites.
The initial version of the Newsbot site will be a test that's aimed at gauging surfers' reactions, the company said. A final version will be relaunched after the test period.
Microsoft has been testing a similar aggregation service in Europe since late 2003.