Microsoft will start closing the more than 4,200 public and private newsgroups related to its products and programs, beginning in June, and porting those discussions to Microsoft forums such as Microsoft Answers, TechNet and MSDN. Microsoft argued that the newsgroups run on "an outdated and discontinued forum that is no longer supported," and are thus vulnerable to spam and other problems.
"Currently, Microsoft hosts more than 2,000 public newsgroups that cover virtually all of our products, along with more than 2,200 private newsgroups that reach specific audiences including Certgen, SBSC, Partner Programs, MVPs and Direct Access, among others," said the announcement on Microsoft's Website. The shutdown and move to Microsoft forums, the company added, "will centralize content, make it easier for contributors to retain their influence, reduce redundancies and make content easier to find."
The company also said community participation in its newsgroups declined 48 percent over the last fiscal year, while visits to its Microsoft forums were increasing at a monthly rate of 12 percent. In theory, the forums will also allow Microsoft to add new features and connections between groups as the need arises, and moderators will be able to bring threads to Microsoft's attention if necessary. Microsoft Answers, TechNet and MSDN will host the new audiences.
"In order to communicate this transition to all of our newsgroup members, we will begin a phased approach to this shutdown, focusing first on newsgroups with minimal traffic," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a May 4 e-mail to eWEEK. "Reminders that newsgroups are closing will be posted in each newsgroup well in advance of its closure with guidance for moving the conversation to a Microsoft forum and sharing links to forums covering similar discussions in newsgroups when possible."
More information about the process can be found here.
Microsoft newsgroups have traditionally been a place for customers to talk through problems and voice their dissatisfaction over issues, and doubled as a way for the company to troubleshoot its various programs.
However, forums such as TechNet have increasingly come to the fore for such uses. During the summer of 2009, for example, users began posting complaints about the battery life of the Windows 7 beta running on laptops; that eventually contributed to Microsoft's investigation of the battery issue following the operating system's Oct. 22 launch. Websites such as TechNet also present a channel through which Microsoft can offer downloads and information on new products.
Since 2009, Microsoft has aggressively culled a number of legacy products, many of them aging software programs such as Encarta, at least partially in response to a retooled corporate strategy that focuses energy on flagship products such as Windows and Office. However, it has also killed online services such as MSN Groups, a section of the MSN network devoted to community pages and message boards, which was shut down in February 2009 to make way for Windows Live Groups.