Microsoft Rolls Out Major Update to MSN Home Page

Microsoft has been previewing a radical redesign of its MSN home page since last fall, but now it's time to start pushing it out to MSN's 100 million U.S. users.

After previewing it for the past four months, Microsoft is finally beginning to deploy this week what it terms the "most significant redesign [that the] homepage has seen in over a decade."

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) began showing off the new MSN homepage with previews that began in November, collecting input on further changes, but said it would be early this year before users actually would be able to get their hands on the update.

Now the time has come.

"Since the preview of our new home page 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 home page to stay in the know," said a post to the MSN blog Tuesday.

The redesign comes at a time when competitors like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) are devoting significant resources to attract and keep users on their sites by incorporating more services. Yahoo has added social feeds from Facebook and other networks and Google has added the Buzz social media app to its Gmail page.

"Today the new MSN homepage will begin rolling out to more than 100 million U.S. customers, ramping up from 10 percent availability to 100 percent availability over the next few weeks," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to

So, what about those 30 updates to the preview that were influenced by user feedback?

Given Microsoft's open armed embrace of its nine-month-old search engine, it's no surprise that Bing comes at the top of the list.

Soon after Bing launched last year, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the company would spend between 5 percent and 10 percent of its annual operating income for five years in order to make Bing successful.

Under the heading "Bing, Bing, and more Bing" -- a line that sounds like it came directly from the lips of Microsoft's garrulous CEO -- the blog post touted that it has increased the prominence of the Bing search box. Other upgrades include a TrendWatch feature that highlights the day's most popular Twitter topics, as well as a search history capability.

Last fall Microsoft inked a deal with Twitter to include real-time tweets in Bing searches. Google announced details of a similar agreement with Twitter the same day.

In addition, the new MSN homepage also provides a single place for users to check their contacts, including Hotmail, Messenger and social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live.

The new MSN homepage also adds hyper-local tweets, which use Bing to identify tweets from the user's location and presents them in a new Local Edition feature, while a My Cities function for Local Edition lets users save three cities to follow.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: Microsoft, Yahoo, google buzz, MSN

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