|Type of site||Portal|
|Launched||August 24, 1995|
|Alexa rank||17 (October 2012[update])|
MSN (originally The Microsoft Network; stylized as msn) is a collection of Internet sites and services provided by Microsoft. The Microsoft Network debuted as an online service and Internet service provider on August 24, 1995, to coincide with the release of the Windows 95 operating system.
The range of services offered by MSN has changed since its initial release in 1995. MSN was once a simple online service for Windows 95, an early experiment at interactive multimedia content on the Internet, and one of the most popular dial-up Internet service providers. MSN was primarily a popular Internet portal.
Microsoft used the MSN brand name to promote numerous popular web-based services in the late 1990s, most notably Hotmail and Microsoft Messenger service, before reorganizing many of them in 2005 under another brand name, Windows Live. MSN.com was the 17th most visited domain name on the Internet.
MSN, the Internet service provider 
MSN Classic 
The concept for MSN was created by the Advanced Technology Group at Microsoft, headed by Nathan Myhrvold. MSN was originally conceived as a dial-up online content provider like America Online, supplying proprietary content through an artificial folder-like interface integrated into Windows 95's Windows Explorer file management program. Categories on MSN appeared like folders in the file system.
Then officially known as 'The Microsoft Network,' the service launched along with Windows 95 on August 24, 1995. MSN was included with Windows 95 installations and promoted through Windows and other Microsoft software released at the time. Product support and discussion was offered through the MSN service, as well as information such as news and weather, basic e-mail capabilities, chat rooms, and message boards similar to newsgroups.
Open access to the World Wide Web was not originally included in the classic MSN service at the time of its initial launch, but Internet access was quickly offered through Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser, which was available as a download from the MSN service or as part of the Windows 95 Plus! package.
MSN 2.0 
In 1996, in response to the increasing relevancy and rapid growth of the Internet, Microsoft renamed its existing MSN service to 'MSN Classic' and created a new version, called 'MSN 2.0,' which combined access to the Internet with web-based multimedia content in a new program known as the 'MSN Program Viewer.' The service was promoted to existing MSN subscribers beginning October 10, 1996; the general release followed on December 10, 1996.
Microsoft promoted MSN 2.0 with a series of advertisements and promotional materials describing the service with the phrase, "Every new universe begins with a big bang." The company offered the initial release of the new MSN 2.0 service on a CD-ROM that it sent to MSN subscribers in the fall of 1996. When inserted, the CD-ROM opened to the ambitious and flashy 'MSN Preview,' an interactive video-based experience that introduced current and prospective subscribers to the new version of MSN and described the features of the MSN 2.0 software.
The MSN Preview was formatted as a guided tour of a mock premiere event for the new MSN. It was hosted by a witty and sarcastic character named 'Michael' who welcomed viewers outside of a theatre and then guided them through the theatre to meet several other characters, each of whom represented one of the channels of MSN 2.0's 'On Stage' area, which was designed as the main platform for interactive multimedia content in MSN 2.0.
A handful of uncredited actors appeared in the MSN Preview, including then-unknown actress Anna Faris, who represented 'Channel 5,' which was described as "media, zines, attitude"; it was targeted at college-age members. The preview also included its own jazz and pop music loop that played during the installation process.
Once installed, members accessed MSN content through the MSN Program Viewer, which was essentially an animated, stylized and streamlined interface on top of an Internet Explorer 3.0 web browser. When members signed in, they would be presented with several different 'Channels,' which were essentially categories for the various types of content available on MSN. These channels included new services such as msnbc.com, a news web site that began as a partnership between Microsoft and NBC; and Slate, an online magazine focused on politics and current events; both were available to all Internet users, and both are still active, many years later.
Interactive multimedia content was presented in a TV-like format, dubbed MSN shows, as part of the 'On Stage' section. The many shows and sites included an interactive online nightly game show called 'Netwits,' a snarky web site addressing women's issues called 'UnderWire,' and a regular celebrity interview and web-surfing session called 'One Click Away.' These new destinations supplemented web-based MSN services such as CarPoint and Expedia, which were branded as 'Essentials.' An additional 'Communicate' section was based around e-mail, chat rooms, and news groups, while a 'Find' section was dedicated to searching MSN content and the rest of the Internet; it also provided a calendar of upcoming events and new shows on MSN.
The new content made extensive use of multimedia and interactive features, including Visual Basic scripting and early implementations of Macromedia Shockwave Flash (originally called 'FutureSplash') for animations.
While the MSN shows approach was unique and innovative, the content was not easily accessible by members with low-end computers and slower dial-up connections. High-speed Internet access was not widely available at the time, and some users subscribed to monthly dial-up plans that limited the number of hours during which they were allowed to access the service. The MSN 2.0 software was also unstable and would often quit unexpectedly.
In addition to MSN 2.0's speed and stability issues, existing MSN subscribers were concerned the transition to MSN 2.0 would break up communities that were established via the MSN Classic message boards and chat rooms. Their concerns were confirmed when Microsoft announced plans to close the entire MSN Classic service. As a result of all these issues, a web site called 'The Official msNOT Hate Site' originated as a negative response to the new MSN 2.0 software. The site claimed Microsoft patently ignored feedback from concerned members and censored anyone who spoke out against the upgrade; it further charged the company's handling of the transition to MSN 2.0 was "insensitive and ethically questionable." Microsoft denied it attempted to silence those who expressed concern about the upgrade. The site also mocked the music loop that played during the MSN 2.0 installation process because it repeated the phrase "too stupid to stop."
Ultimately, the ambitious use of web-based and interactive multimedia content on the Internet during 1996 and 1997 proved to be ahead of its time, and the MSN 2.0 service was not as successful as Microsoft initially hoped. The company returned to the drawing board for its next MSN release.
MSN 2.5 through 5.0 
In 1997, after abandoning the interactive multimedia format, the MSN service was again re-focused, this time as a more traditional Internet access service. With the release of MSN 2.5 in late 1997, some exclusive MSN branded content was still offered through the MSN Program Viewer, but the service mainly directed members to normal, text-based web sites that anyone on the Internet could access, instead of interactive shows.
Accompanying the MSN Program Viewer in MSN 2.5 was 'MSN Quick Launch', an icon inside the Windows notification area. Like the MSN Program Viewer in MSN 2.0, the menu in MSN Quick Launch could be dynamically updated to guide members to updated MSN content and services.
With the MSN Internet Access 2.6 release in 1998, the MSN Program Viewer was abandoned entirely in favor of the more familiar Internet Explorer. Another new version of the service, MSN Internet Access 5.0, was released along with Internet Explorer 5.0 in 1999. MSN 5.0 was largely identical to MSN 2.6.
Around this time, MSN began to focus on being an Internet portal to users of other Internet service providers. Building on the success of MSN's web-based e-mail service, Hotmail, which was acquired by Microsoft in December 1997, the 'MSN Messenger Service' (later Microsoft Messenger service) for instant messaging was launched in 1999.
MSN Explorer 
By the release of Windows XP in 2001 (which also brought with it Internet Explorer 6.0), content for MSN Internet Access subscribers was offered through a program called MSN Explorer (MSN 6.0). This program is similar to the MSN Program Viewer in that it provides access to MSN websites, Hotmail, Microsoft Messenger service, and other MSN content through a customized interface on top of Internet Explorer.
The program was rebranded as simply 'MSN' for versions 7, 8, and 9, which were released throughout the next few years. MSN 10 is the current version of the provider's special software for dial-up and premium Internet access.
MSN Dial-up and Premium 
In the United States and Canada, MSN still offers dial-up Internet service under the name 'MSN Dial-up'. MSN remains the second largest Internet service provider in the United States, behind dial-up leader AOL, which had retained about 10 million subscribers by the end of 2007. MSN bundles its dial-up service with an e-mail account at MSN.com and security software such as firewall and anti-virus programs. MSN subscribers were upgraded to the standard version of Hotmail in 2008, with additional storage capacity compared to free Hotmail users.
For customers with high-speed broadband Internet access, 'MSN Premium' is a subscription service provided by MSN which combines a number of different Internet services into a premium-service version of MSN Explorer. In order to use MSN Premium, users subscribe to the service through get.msn.com or by acquiring DSL through one of MSN's partners, such as Verizon or Qwest in the United States or Bell Internet in Canada. Microsoft also offered premium services with Verizon through the Windows Live brand name beginning in 2006. The included MSN Premium software offers a customized interface similar to the dial-up software. Premium subscribers also receive a firewall and anti-virus software provided by McAfee and Spy Sweeper.
MSN for Mac OS X 
It was a dial-up client interface to Microsoft's pay-for-access online services for Mac users. It was discontinued in March 2005. The software was, in some respects, comparable to the AOL dial-up client given its channelized interface, built-in chat and instant messaging capabilities, parental controls, and ability to accommodate multiple screen names. It used the Tasman layout engine made for Apple Macintosh edition of Internet Explorer 5.
Upon the client software's discontinuation, Microsoft released this statement: "After May 31, 2005, customers will no longer access MSN service by using the MSN for Mac OS X Internet Software. Instead of accessing MSN services using the MSN for Mac OS X internet software, customers will access MSN services and features with their preferred browser and by setting up a My MSN page as a portal to their favorite online destinations."
Microsoft continues to offer its Microsoft Messenger for Mac software, an instant messaging-only client which, unlike the bulkier MSN for Mac OS X, requires only a free Windows Live account for use. MSN Messenger is comparable to, although not compatible with, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).
MSN, the Internet portal 
Internet Start 
From 1995 to 1998, the MSN.com domain was used to promote MSN as an Internet service provider. At the time, MSN.com also offered a custom start page and an Internet tutorial, but Microsoft's major Internet portal was known as 'Microsoft Internet Start,' located at home.microsoft.com. It served as the default home page for Internet Explorer and offered basic information such as news, weather, sports, stocks, entertainment reports, links to web sites on the Internet, articles by Microsoft staff members, and software updates. Microsoft's popular news web site, msnbc.com, which launched in 1996, was also tied closely to Microsoft Internet Start.
In 1998, the largely underutilized 'MSN.com' domain name was reinvented as both an Internet portal and as the brand for a family of sites produced inside Microsoft's Interactive Media Group. The new site put MSN in direct competition with sites such as Yahoo! and Go Network. Because the new format opened up MSN's content to the world for free, the Internet service provider and subscription service was renamed 'MSN Internet Access' at that time.
The relaunched MSN.com contained a whole family of sites, including original content, channels that were carried over from web shows that were part of the 'MSN 2.0' experiment (although none of the actual shows remained), and new features that were rapidly added. MSN.com also became a successor to the default Internet Explorer start page, as all of the previous 'Microsoft Internet Start' web site was merged with MSN.com.
In the late 1990s, Microsoft collaborated with many other service providers, as well as other Microsoft departments, to expand the range of MSN's services. Some examples include Microsoft adCenter, MSN Shopping (affiliated with eBay, PriceGrabber and Shopping.com), and the MSN Encarta encyclopedia with various levels of access to information.
Since then, MSN.com has remained a popular destination, launching many new services and content sites. MSN's Hotmail and Microsoft Messenger service were promoted from the MSN.com portal, which provided a central place for all of MSN's content. MSN Search, a dedicated search engine, launched in 1999. The single sign-in service for Microsoft's online services, Microsoft Passport (now Windows Live ID), also launched across all MSN services in 1999. The MSN.com portal and related group of services under the 'MSN' umbrella remained largely the same throughout much of the next decade.
On November 5, 2009, MSN released a preview of its new home page and logo. It was originally expected to be widely available to over 100 million U.S. customers by early 2010. MSN rolled out its new logo, coupled with a major redesign of the overall site, on December 25, 2009.
Windows Live 
Many of MSN's services were reorganized in 2005 and 2006 under a new brand name, Windows Live. This move was part of Microsoft's strategy to improve its online offerings using the Windows brand name. The company also overhauled its online software and services due to increasing competition from rivals such as Yahoo! and Google. The new name was introduced one service at a time. Windows Live uses 'Web 2.0' technology to offer features and functionality through a web browser that were traditionally only available through dedicated software programs.
Some of the MSN services affected by the rebranding included MSN Hotmail, which became Windows Live Hotmail; MSN Messenger, which became Windows Live Messenger; MSN Search, which became Live Search (now known as Bing); MSN Virtual Earth, which became Live Search Maps; MSN Spaces, which became Windows Live Spaces; MSN Alerts, which became Windows Live Alerts; and MSN Groups, which became Windows Live Groups. Some other related services, such as MSN Direct, remained a part of the MSN family without transitioning to Windows Live.
Following the launch of Windows Live, the MSN brand took on a different focus. MSN is now primarily an online content provider of news, entertainment, and common interest topics through its Internet portal, MSN.com, while Windows Live now provides most of Microsoft's online software and services.
Other services known as "MSN" 
In addition to the Internet service provider and the Internet portal, the name "MSN" has been used for a number of related services. The two most popular of these are Hotmail and Messenger. For further information, see List of services by MSN.
Hotmail was a free web-based e-mail service by Microsoft. Originally started as an independent service in 1996, it became part of the MSN family in 1997. Since 2006, it was a part of Microsoft's Windows Live group of online services. Hotmail had over 380 million users worldwide and was available in 35 languages. Hotmail was replaced with Outlook on April 3rd 2013.Outlook.com.
MSN launched an instant messaging service in 1999 to compete with AOL Instant Messenger, which was originally known as 'MSN Messenger Service' and was later shortened to simply 'MSN Messenger'. The underlying technology later became known as '.NET Messenger Service' and then simply the 'Microsoft Messenger service', while Windows Live Messenger is the name of the main program used to access the service. Regardless, the term 'MSN' has come to be synonymous with the service in Internet slang.
International services 
Microsoft extended its MSN services beyond the United States, partnering with local telecommunications companies and broadcast stations to provide service in numerous areas around the world. In Canada, MSN has partnered with Bell Sympatico (the ISP division of Bell Canada) creating "Sympatico / MSN"
In Australia, Microsoft originally partnered with Telstra in 1995 with MSN branded locally as OnAustralia. When Microsoft withdrew from the joint venture the following year, Telstra assumed 100% ownership and rebranded the service as BigPond. Microsoft subsequently partnered with the Nine Network to create "ninemsn". In Mexico, MSN has partenered with Telmex' Prodigy creating "Prodigy / MSN". An affiliation with Xtra, Telecom New Zealand's Internet provider ended in 2006 (see XtraMSN).
MSN has many offices worldwide for national customer support. It utilizes the service of call centers around the world. Among the countries are the Philippines (technical and customer service), El Salvador (technical and customer support for Spanish-speaking customers), and India (customer service). In 2007, Microsoft set up a research and development center for MSN services in China, based in Shanghai's Zizhu Science Park. The center hosts a technical support team for MSN services.
List of MSN affiliates 
- South Africa
- Canada (English)
- Canada (French)
- Costa Rica
- Latin America
- United States (English)
- United States (Spanish)
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
Europe & Middle East:
- Belgium (Dutch)
- Belgium (French)
- Switzerland (German)
- Switzerland (French)
- Switzerland (Italian)
- United Kingdom
Caribbean: (coming soon; former Netherlands Antilles in italicized text)
- Saint-Martin (French)
- Saint-Martin (English)
- Sint Maarten (Dutch)
- Sint Maarten (English)
- Curacao (Dutch)
- Curacao (Papiamentu)
- Sint Eustatius (Dutch)
- Sint Eustatius (English)
- Saba (Dutch)
- Saba (English)
- Bonaire (Dutch)
- Bonaire (Papiamentu)
- Aruba (Dutch)
- Aruba (Papiamentu)
- Saint Barthelemy (French)
- Saint Barthelemy (English)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Puerto Rico (English)
- Puerto Rico (Spanish)
- Pureto Rico (Portuguese)
- Puerto Rico (Papiamentu)
See also 
- Microsoft Windows
- Windows 95
- msnbc / msnbc.com
- MSN Explorer
- Windows Live Messenger
- Windows Live
- MSN Chat
- MSN Soapbox
- MSN Video
- Sympatico / MSN Music Store
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