MSN heads Web-wards

Microsoft will become the first online service to fully embrace the World Wide Web when it makes Internet Explorer 3.0 its default front-end this Christmas.

Microsoft will become the first online service to fully embrace the World Wide Web when it makes Internet Explorer 3.0 its default front-end this Christmas. A UK start page opened today and a beta of the new MSN will debut in November.

By Christmas, all advertising-dependent areas of MSN - including MSNBC and travel sections - will be freely accessible to any user with Web access, although a "subscription wall" will remain so that only owners of MSN accounts can access some areas. Taylor Collyer, group marketing manager for MSN, said about 10 developers are working on UK-specific content.

Although it started life as a proprietary online service, MSN is now "a way to get people on the Net", Collyer said. "There is a race for differentiation in online services. In the UK there is the beginning of consolidation. I think it will end up with three or four access providers."

Collyer claimed that while six months ago Microsoft was only number seven in the list of all UK dial-up Internet access providers with 20,000 subscribers, it is now third with over 70,000 subscribers, behind Demon Internet and market leader CompuServe. It plans to take second place by the end of the year.

Microsoft says features such as specially developed content, 100 per cent local call charges, flat rates, UK currency billing, and logical e-mail names, have helped it win over "Internet virgins" and take share from competitors, notably CompuServe.

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