The World: Redmond - Microsoft pilots ad links in search engine

Microsoft is upping the stakes in its battle with the search engines Google and Yahoo! by testing software that links internet searches to advertisers.

A pilot scheme, which will run in France and Singapore, will allow advertisers to pay Microsoft for a listing based on key-word searches. The software, MSN adCenter, give access to data, including age and gender, on MSN users. Microsoft currently pays Yahoo! to handle ad links in a deal lasting until 2006.

Microsoft estimates around 50,000 companies advertise on the internet, compared with around seven million in the Yellow Pages.