MSN.com will soon start looking (and acting) different for its millions of users.
Microsoft is currently in the process of switching over to a new design for the Website, the software giant's contribution to the Web portal craze that gripped the industry in the 1990s. Acknowledging the explosive growth of mobile device usage, the company said the new MSN provides a better experience on smartphones and tablets.
"Over the next 72 hours, we will roll out the new MSN to the more than 425 million people in over 50 countries around the world that come to the site each month," said Brian MacDonald, corporate vice president of Information and Content Experiences for Microsoft, in a Sept. 29 announcement. The upgrade follows a three-week preview period that drew nearly 10 million visitors, 80,000 of which provided feedback.
MSN now features an adaptive design that scales appropriately across smartphones, tablets and PCs. Also new is a "Services Stripe" that provides quick access to other Microsoft services, including Outlook.com, OneDrive and Skype, along with Twitter and Facebook.
Under the hood, the company enlisted its massive Azure cloud infrastructure, said MacDonald. "The new MSN is completely built from the ground up on Azure to provide massive, cost-effective scale (with more than 30,000 Azure cores for serving and 100 Terabytes of storage), reliability, and ongoing agility for a cloud-first, mobile-first world."
MacDonald's remarks also suggest that little more than the MSN logo has been carried over to the new site. "Every single line of code was re-written," ensuring a consistent experience across MSN's various categories, he said.
In addition, the new MSN emphasizes personalization and premium content. Users can customize their MSN News page by assigning topics to follow or picking from a batch of selected topics that are currently dominating headlines at top-tier Web publishers.
"With the new MSN, we focused on bringing the best-in-class content from the leaders in both content and data from around the world," said MacDonald. Content sources include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Condé Nast.
The new MSN also means the end of the Bing mobile app catalog for Windows, at least from a branding perspective.
Microsoft is swapping out Bing for MSN with an update to its Weather, News, Sports, Travel, Health & Fitness, and Food & Drink apps. Bing Finance is being renamed MSN Money. "These apps will now be branded to reflect their alignment to the MSN premium experience for content as well as personal productivity features," said Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc in a Sept. 29 blog post.
The move, while seemingly a blow to the Microsoft's efforts to popularize its search technology, does line up with its goal of building a Bing-powered ecosystem of smart, context-aware services. "Bing will continue to provide search and intelligent experiences such as powering Cortana," assured LeBlanc.