Microsoft revealed a heavily revised MSN homepage on Nov. 4, calling the newly stripped-down and personalized site "the most significant homepage redesign in over a decade." Microsoft is following other online titans, such as Yahoo, that have revamped their homepages in the last few months to incorporate growing trends such as social networking.
In addition to an MSN Butterfly logo, the new MSN page-viewable as a preview on this site-features 50 percent fewer links and generally appears less cluttered than its predecessor. Other new features include:
Deeper integration with Bing: The new MSN page includes multiple Bing-powered search bars, each devoted to subject areas such as Shopping, Jobs, Maps, Movies and generalized search.
Social networking: Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as Windows Live's "What's New," can be displayed on MSN's new page.
Video: The new page offers in-line streaming video, based on Microsoft's Silverlight technology, as part of its news and entertainment feed.
Local information: The new MSN page uses Bing to deliver local information-such as weather and traffic-keyed to the user's ZIP code.
Microsoft is promoting the MSN redesign as part and parcel of the same philosophy that went into the building of Windows 7.
"We spent thousands of hours talking with customers; testing hundreds of ideas; experimenting around the world and carefully evaluating what our users want and don't want," Erik Jorgensen, MSN corporate vice president, wrote in a Nov. 3 post on the MSN blog. His words seem heavily reminiscent of Microsoft's "I'm a PC and Windows 7 was my idea" campaign, which focused on how user input supposedly influenced the features and build of the latest Windows operating system.
According to Jorgensen, redesigned site is also meant to be more appealing to advertisers.
"The simple, uncluttered environment of our new homepage also affords an advertising opportunity, unlike anything we've offered before," Jorgensen explained in his blog post. "Advertisers can create a conversation with customers through engaging, high-performing, rich-media advertising campaigns."
Microsoft, along with Yahoo, currently finds itself battling Google for search and advertising dollars. As part of a $100 million "It's You!" rebranding campaign, Yahoo recently subjected its homepage to a similar top-down revision, allowing users to consolidate favorite content and sites onto single user pages, and adding new functionality to features such as search.
During Yahoo's September launch of that campaign, CEO Carol Bartz explained a philosophy behind the personalized homepage design that could just as easily apply to Microsoft's retooling of MSN.
"Advertisers follow consumers, and if you want to talk in sort of the parlance of advertising, you always need to build circulation," Bartz told the assembled media at the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square. "By doing this very personalized approach, [we] get really good microinsights for our advertisers."
Microsoft may very well be hoping that same logic will apply to its new MSN homepage.