The current MSN homepage design, introduced in September 2014
|Slogan||Explore the Possibilities|
|Type of site||Web portal|
|Launched||August 24, 1995|
|Alexa rank||33 (April 2014[update])|
MSN (originally The Microsoft Network; stylized as msn) is a collection of Internet websites 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. Since 1998, MSN has primarily been a popular web portal.
Microsoft used the MSN brand name to promote numerous popular web-based services in the late 1990s, most notably Hotmail and Messenger, before reorganizing many of them in 2005 under another brand name, Windows Live.
From 1995 to 1998, the MSN.com domain was used primarily 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 web 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 combined with Microsoft Internet Start and reinvented as both a web portal and as the brand for a family of sites produced inside Microsoft's Interactive Media Group. The new website 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 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 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 Messenger services were promoted from the MSN.com portal, which provided a central place for all of MSN's content. MSN Search (now Bing), a dedicated search engine, launched in 1999. The single sign-in service for Microsoft's online services, Microsoft Passport (now Microsoft account), 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 the first half of the next decade.
The sports section of the MSN portal was ESPN.com from 2001 to 2004, and FoxSports.com since 2004. MSN had an exclusive partnership with msnbc.com for news content from 1996 until 2012, when Microsoft sold its remaining stake in msnbc.com to NBCUniversal and the website was renamed NBCNews.com. Since then, MSN has launched 'MSN News', an in-house news operation.
MSN released a preview of its new home page and logo on November 3, 2009. 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.
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. The group of Windows Live services used '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 (now Outlook.com); MSN Messenger, which became Windows Live Messenger (now integrated into Skype); MSN Search, which became Live Search (now known as Bing); MSN Virtual Earth, which became Live Search Maps (now Bing 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 became primarily an online content provider of news, entertainment, and common interest topics through its web portal, MSN.com, while Windows Live provided most of Microsoft's online software and services. Beginning in 2012, Microsoft started to phase out the 'Windows Live' brand name, instead referring to each former Windows Live service separately by its individual brand name without any 'Windows' prefix or association (for example Outlook.com, OneDrive, and Office Online).
A new site, making use of Microsoft's modern design language, was launched on September 30, 2014. The new MSN sports a new version of the logo, following a similar style to other Microsoft products including Bing and Microsoft Office. It features 12 sections, consisting of weather, news, sports, money, health & fitness, food & drink, travel, autos, video, entertainment, and lifestyle. The site no longer offered original content. It added customizability, where each section could be added and removed or reordered on the page. The top of the homepage provides access to popular sites like Outlook.com, Facebook, Twitter, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype.
With the site launch, Microsoft also rebranded the Bing Apps on Windows and Windows Phone 8.1 to MSN. The new MSN apps mean a unified experience across devices. For example, setting a stock watchlist on MSN.com will show the same data on the MSN Money app on Windows 8.1. Microsoft announced that the apps would soon be available across all major device platforms, including iOS and Android.
The redesign of the site led to the closure of the 'My MSN' personalized user homepage service, which was made up of customized RSS feeds, as the new site does not support the addition of user-specified RSS content.
MSN for Windows 8
On October 1, 2012, MSN announced on its blog that it would be unveiling a new version of the MSN.com home page on October 26, exclusively for Windows 8, saying that the new version would be, "clean, simple, and built for touch." Microsoft said that it would be more app-like due to the speed of Internet Explorer 10. More new features included 'Flip Ahead', which allowed users to "flip" from one article to another by swiping their finger. MSN for Windows 8 also had new deals with the AP and Reuters.
MSN Entertainment is an entertainment search service which replaced Bing Entertainment as part of the MSN redesign in September 2014. It enables users to search through music, movies, TV, games and video games. Bing Entertainment was originally released on 23 June 2010 alongside the addition of Bing's new user Interface. With Bing teaming up with various popular Internet Television sites it gives users over 1500 television shows; some trailers or some whole episodes.
MSN Money curates advice from hundreds of publishers and experts.
Former MSN-branded services
In addition to the Internet service provider and the web 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 email service by Microsoft. Originally launched as an independent startup in 1996, it was acquired by Microsoft in late 1997 and became part of the MSN family of services shortly after. In 2006, it was reorganized as part of Microsoft's Windows Live group of online services. At that time, Hotmail had over 380 million users worldwide and was available in 35 languages. Microsoft phased out Hotmail and replaced it with Outlook.com in 2013.
MSN launched an instant messaging service in 1999 as 'MSN Messenger Service', to compete with AOL Messenger. The underlying technology later became known as the '.NET Messenger Service' and then simply 'Messenger'. The program itself was renamed MSN Messenger, then Windows Live Messenger in 2006, although the term 'MSN' became synonymous with the service in Internet slang.
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