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MSN (or Microsoft Network) is a collection of Internet services provided by Microsoft. Initially released on August 24, 1995, to coincide with the release of Windows 95, the range of services has yet changed greatly. The Hotmail webmail service was amongst the first, followed by the instant messenger service MSN Messenger, which has recently been replaced by Windows Live Messenger. According to Alexa.com, MSN.com is currently ranked 2nd amongst all websites for Traffic Rank.
MSN was largely rebranded in 2006 to Windows Live, which saw the release of Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Messenger, when Microsoft overhauled its online software and services in a climate of increasing competition from rivals such as Google, and Yahoo. The Windows Live brand is currently being rolled out service-by-service, with rebranded services being classed as BETA tests initially. It is anticipated that the MSN service will aim at the personal and family user, whilst Windows Live will be a dedicated search facility for various media.
In the United States, MSN is not only a content provider and search engine, it is additionally an Internet Service Provider. With around 9 million subscribers, MSN is the second largest Internet Service Provider in the United States behind AOL service with about 26.5 million. In other countries, MSN uses underwriters for their services; in the UK, Microsoft use BTInternet.
The term "MSN" has come to be synonymous with MSN Messenger in Internet slang. To use MSN services, the users must have a Microsoft Passport Network account, an account system which allows access to all of the Microsoft Network facilities. One can sign-up using any e-mail address, and can then use personalized MSN (now Live) features requiring the use of a Microsoft Passport. These personalized features include 'My MSN', Hotmail and the ability to sign-into Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger), and the now retired (as from Windows Vista) Windows Messenger. As of 2007, MSN has more than 225 million users.
In 2007 Microsoft plans to set up in Shanghai, China, a research and development center for MSN service. It will be the company's first center of such kind situated outside of the United States. Being based in Shanghai's Zizhu Science Park, the research and development center will develop Internet software. Its set up is estimated at $20 million. Microsoft, in the new center, will have a technical support team for its MSN service. In the future, the company hopes MSN Messenger will play an important role in everyday life of Chinese teenagers and young professionals. Several setbacks caused Microsoft to create its own facility for MSN service. One of such setback is the resignation of Luo Chuan, who headed the Windows Live unit in China and who was also responsible for Chinese MSN portal. 
MSN was originally conceived as an online service provider in the vein of America Online, supplying local and proprietary content through an interface that matched that of Windows 95's Windows Explorer.
The MSN group began life in the Advanced Technology Group, headed by Nathan Myhrvold and group was called AT-OLS (Advanced Technologies Online Systems group.
Following the rapid adoption of the Internet, partly fueled by the built-in IP protocol capabilities of Windows 95, the service was then rebranded in a new "MSN 2.0" incarnation, which combined access to the Internet with web delivered proprietary content.
The new content made extensive use of multimedia and interactive features, including VBScript and early implementations of Macromedia Flash for animations. While the approach was quite unique, the content wasn't easily accessible by users with low-end computers and dial-up connections (high-bandwidth Internet access hadn't yet hit the mainstream). As a result, the service was again rebranded as a more traditional Internet service provider. On February 14, 2000, MSN adopted its current multi-colored "butterfly" logo. 
Microsoft has collaborated with many other service providers, as well as other Microsoft departments to expand the appeal of the Microsoft Network, examples include:
In addition MSN Premium subscribers also receive:
Microsoft has found increasing competition from other service providers, such as Google and Yahoo! The recent launch of Google Earth was shortly followed by a similar offering from MSN. Suffice it to say, MSN, Yahoo! and Google are rapidly expanding the services they offer, and with little difference between them, except personal preference. Similarly, while MSN Premium does offer the use of Firewall, Virus and Spyware programs for free, other broadband providers also offer similar (or identical) services for their subscribers.
In 2006, the majority of MSN services and software were upgraded and re-branded with the new Windows Live name. This is part of Microsofts strategy to improve its online offerings through better services and software using the Windows brand name. MSN will then become only an online content provider through internet portals such as msn.com.
Windows Live will use new web technology to offer software-like features and functionality through one's web browser. This is evident with Windows Live Hotmail where a right-click menu can be used and the interface mimics that of Microsoft Outlook. Windows Live also accompanies Office Live which will offer Microsoft Office programs and service through an internet browser.
Completed and speculated name changes:
The future status of two current offerings, MSN Explorer and MSN Groups, is not currently public.
New services have been announced, such as Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner and Windows Live Favorites.
In early 2007 liveside.net reported disappointing results from the Windows Live brand , concluding that resulting losses included user alienation, higher running costs and the fact that completely new brand names have caused confusion which is harming the Microsoft online services. It was later announced that MSN will be once-again focused on (however, it is yet to be seen how this affects the Live brand) with a redesign of the network. The MSN Entertainment portal has been recently redesigned focusing on content rather than services, said to be the defintion of the difference between Windows Live and MSN.
Categories: 1995 establishments | Internet service providers of the United States | Microsoft subsidiaries | Web portals | On-line chat | MSN | Internet