Aaron Wall noted on ThreadWatch that MSN is now offering advertisers the opportunity to target ads using knowledge of the users prior search habits. The general press release is easy to find, but as Aaron notes:
I can see this being beneficial for ads on content websites about noncommercial topics, but I can’t imagine this would have much value in the search results. Not for the least of reasons because the seemingly off targeted ads would simultaneously teach searchers to ignore the ads while creeping some of them out.
Aaron has committed thousands of hours to search research in the past few years, and maintains contact with many high profile search industry people. Here he notes that the proud actions of MSN will not help search users, may hinder them, and may hurt search engine advertising in the long term.
Another reason to feel good about Yahoo!, and feel sorry for MSN (we already have too many reasons to fear Google). MSN is grasping for attention, even at it’s own expense, and risking the quality of it’s search. Yahoo! continues to forge ahead quietly with full self awarness that it is a maketing company, selling more and more into it’s own, tightly monitored community of users.