Microsoft MSN

Microsoft MSN

Microsoft MSN is a portal and collection of Web applications and content services. The service debuted in August 1995 alongside the release of Windows 95.

It originally modeled itself after the private dial-up service networks of America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy. Subscribers paid a monthly fee for access to proprietary content via the MSN Program Viewer.

Getting Started

MSN began life in 1995 as an experiment at interactive multimedia content on the Internet. It was one of the first dial-up Internet service providers and was one of the most popular.

Msn offers news, weather and a variety of other informational services as well as an email service (MSN Hotmail) and instant messaging (MSN Messenger). MSN also allows you to personalize your MSN experience on any device that you use it with including the Microsoft websites and mobile devices.

Unlike its competitors CompuServe and AOL, MSN did not build an application front-end for its software, but instead integrated it directly into the Windows operating system with the MSN Program Viewer which was essentially an Internet Explorer front-end. Its aggressive adoption of multimedia content proved to be ahead of its time, and the MSN Program Viewer soon drew a Justice Department investigation into allegations that it was tracking users’ visits to competing software makers in order to follow them with advertising of its own products.

Signing Up

MSN, or Microsoft Network, is a collection of online content and communications services. It originally launched as an Internet access service in 1995 and now primarily focuses on a set of Web-based services. These include email, instant messaging, news and entertainment. To sign up for MSN, you must create a Microsoft account with an email address. You can also use the MSN login process to access other Microsoft services such as Outlook and Windows Live.

Unlike CompuServe and AOL, which created applications that acted as front-ends for their services, Microsoft chose to integrate MSN into Windows 95. This allowed computer users to navigate through MSN areas using specially-designed Explorer windows.

Microsoft also partnered with Verizon to offer DSL connections to MSN subscribers, and later purchased Hotmail. This purchase gave MSN a tried-and-true e-mail technology and helped to boost its subscriber numbers. As a result, MSN was soon the number two online service behind AOL.

Using MSN Live

The earliest iterations of MSN were designed to integrate into a variety of Microsoft products. At the time, Microsoft was attempting to make headway against AOL as an Internet service provider and bundled dial-up Internet access with Windows. MSN also partnered with several DSL providers and offered a version of Internet Explorer for Web access called the MSN Program Viewer.

As the services evolved, Microsoft attempted to make them more user-friendly, focusing on easy-to-use interfaces and a large number of content sources. The first attempt at multimedia content came in the form of MSN Shows, which featured a variety of online video and audio programming.

MSN is now part of the larger group of online services known as Windows Live. Many of the older MSN services have been renamed and revamped to fit in with the new brand. For example, MSN Messenger became the instant messaging component of Windows Live Messenger. The MSN Toolbar Suite 2.0 has been renamed to the more descriptive Windows Desktop Search.

Using MSN Messenger

A central feature of MSN Messenger is its ability to connect you with multiple principals simultaneously. Each MSN Messenger session involves a connection to a notification server, which in turn connects you with “switchboard servers” (or SBs). The switchboard handles instant messaging sessions, and invites principals to other services such as NetMeeting and file transfer.

In a time before Facebook and Twitter, Microsoft’s MSN was one of the Internet’s first social networks. It was also one of the most popular chat services.

Unlike most instant messengers, MSN Messenger allows you to add photos and art to your chat windows. It also offers the ability to create multiple mailboxes and import address books for each. MSN also introduced an email client based on the new UI, and a suite of content sites that featured TV-style shows and online interactive games in the “MSN Shows” format. In the early 2000s, MSN shifted its focus from being an Internet Service Provider to becoming more of a toolkit for online activities that assembled resources to make Web-based activities easier for consumers.

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