Microsoft MSN Homepage Redesign Focuses on Twitter, Facebook

Microsoft began rolling out its redesigned MSN homepage on March 9, five months after first previewing the newly streamlined Website. Among new features, Microsoft has integrated social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook into the homepage, as well as MSN Local Edition, which tailors news and information to the user's geographical location. Microsoft executives have previously noted that the redesign is intended to appeal not only to consumers, but also to advertisers, as Microsoft and Yahoo engage in a three-way battle with Google for users and advertising dollars.

Microsoft began rolling out its redesigned MSN homepage on March 9, emphasizing the Website's stripped-down design and integration with social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook.

The redesign, first previewed in November, includes 50 percent fewer links and an emphasis on white space. In addition, the new MSN homepage features multiple Bing-powered search bars and in-line streaming video based on Silverlight technology.

In a nod toward the burgeoning trend of social networking, the redesigned homepage includes user feeds from Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live. The social aspect extends further with a TrendWatch feature that itemizes the most-tweeted daily topics on Twitter, paired with a listing of the most Popular Searches on MSN. Easy access to Hotmail is provided from the homepage, as well.

Another addition, the MSN Local Edition, delivers information keyed to the user's location. The My Cities feature allows users to save up to three cities to receive information about-including local video clips, localized tweets and a selection of area blogs.

"Since the preview of our new homepage began in November, we've been very busy gathering over 70,000 pieces of customer feedback and introducing over 30 updates in our quest to deliver the best homepage to stay in the know," Erik Jorgensen, MSN's corporate vice president, wrote in a March 9 posting on the official MSN Blog. "Because we want to ensure every customer has a great first experience, we're taking our time to roll it out, but all of our 100 million customers in the U.S. will have the new homepage within the next few weeks."

In addition to appealing to users, the Website has also been revamped with advertisers in mind.

"The simple, uncluttered environment of our new homepage also affords an advertising opportunity, unlike anything we've offered before," Jorgensen wrote on the MSN blog on Nov. 3, when the Website first previewed. "Advertisers can create a conversation with customers through engaging, high-performing, rich-media advertising campaigns."

Around the time that Microsoft first announced the redesign, Yahoo also took steps to streamline its homepage, allowing users to consolidate favorite content and sites onto single user pages. That personalized design, CEO Carol Bartz explained during the September 2009 launch of the company's $100 million "It's You" rebranding campaign, was also done with an eye toward attracting advertisers.

Both Microsoft and Yahoo find themselves in a fierce battle with Google, which currently leads the search-engine market in both the United States and internationally for advertising dollars and customer eyeballs. Despite a search-and-advertising deal between Yahoo and Microsoft expected to close this year, which will see Microsoft's Bing powering back-end search on Yahoo's sites, Yahoo executives have taken pains to emphasize that their company is still a viable online entity with its own robust features.