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Should MSN go free? You said YES...

Following our recent coverage of events at MSN, we have received several emails in response to our question: should MSN go free?
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor

The vast majority of ZDNet UK users who wrote in do believe the struggling service should go free, if only to survive. Some good news for the MSN camp was in the form of praise for the actual network which is both reliable and easy to log onto according to our readers.

Many thanks for taking the time to respond to our stories. The responses will be passed onto Gillian Kent, group marketing manager for MSN.

Story: Severe loss at MSN

Dear sir,

I guess I must be one of MSN's 'core users' (whatever that means) since I still pay for Internet access through them. Should it go free? Yes but only if it remains as reliable as it is and the level of support remains as present. Have I been tempted to try a free service? Yes but you hear so many conflicting stories about the reliability, availability of these services that I'd rather not risk it -- my livelihood depends on having a good solid connection. Anyhow, don't these free services 'take over' your PC with all those junk ads? Interestingly a friend of mine has asked me to hook him to the Internet using the soon to be free Virgin Net. At least then I'll no myself how this free service works out.

Martin Kaufman

Dear sir,

If MSN in the UK wants to survive I think they will have to seriously consider becoming a free service, to enable it to compete.

Marshall Garner

Dear sir,

Of course it should. I stopped MSN at Xmas and went to Freeserve.

Mike Rowe

Dear sir,

I think that MSN should continue to charge a fee to its members. The reasons are:

  • I don't want my screen covered with adverts whenever I log on.
  • At least if you are paying for a service, you have some part of ownership, from the point of being the customer.
  • If it were free, would the service suffer? I feel that it would suffer from content, customer service, and very slow connections due to overload.
  • Regards,

    I. Dixon

    Dear sir,

    Yes MSN should be free, it is a very good reliable service that if free would be the market leader and improve the reputation of Microsoft which at the moment can't be a bad idea.

    James and Helen Townsend

    Dear sir,

    MSN has no choice. It must go free or go.

    Chris Hardiker

    Dear sir,

    The service offered is excellent but there is no doubt that MSN should go free. It makes enough profits not to worry about the bottom line. If other less successful companies can do it why not MSN?

    M Gee

    Dear sir,

    I don't feel that MSN should go free, but perhaps a reduction in monthly subscriptions by about 50% would be in order. I don't mind paying for MSN's quality and reliability, but £14.95 per month is a bit expensive when compared to cheaper or even free services.

    Pete Wild

    Dear sir,

    I have just finished reading your online article regarding MSN losing 20% of its customer base. As you can tell from my email address I am an MSN user.

    I personally believe in life you get what you pay for up to a certain extent and as a result I don't mine paying for my Internet access providing the service is good. I can't help feeling that with these free services there is a catch....i.e. how are they funding them? Sooner or later charges are going to have to be introduced to cater for the mass usage of these services...either that or the services will become unstable.

    MSN, in my opinion blows more hot and cold than the English climate!! When the service runs smoothly it is fantastic but I have experienced a lot of problems with them, including line drops and several email sending/receiving failures. I am pleased to say though that recently their service has been more of the former than the latter and I have been impressed.

    As I previously pointed out, I don't mind paying for the service, but recently especially with the introduction of free providers I don't really feel that MSN can justify their monthly charge anymore.....especially as they don't even have multiple email addresses or web space. I have decided to give them 3 more months (having been with them just over a year) and if the service has not got any better or they don't lower their fees then I am going to search for an alternative ISP........right now Netcom is favourite as they have had good magazine write ups.

    Hope my opinion is of some value.


    Gareth Miles

    Dear sir,

    Yes I have been a MSN subscriber for the past four years, and I do think it should be free.

    I have recently cut down to their limited service saving £10.00 per month but have since been unable to send e-mail through MSN only receive. Their helpdesk in Ireland were unaware of this MSN service and were therefore unable to resolve this problem.

    My free service is with Swinternet UK and they also provide 10MB of free web space, this is something that MSN should think about as they provide all the tools needed to create web pages but do not offer any space to try it out.

    Marvin Blackwell

    Dear sir,

    Yes I am an MSN user -- almost since inception (Nov. 95) and yes it should be free.

    I haven't changed due mostly to inertia on my part -- it's a nuisance trying to contact everyone with a new e-mail address.

    Also I suspect the likes of Freeserve etc. may soon carry so many "adverts" and members that it will prove difficult to log on at all -- if it works out okay I'll change too, but not just yet.

    Tim Morton

    Story: MSN on the ropes

    Dear sir,

    Having read the articles: MSN on the ropes? Not likely -- Microsoft Net Loafer: Are paid-for ISPs dead in the water?

    I believe that paid-for ISPs in the UK are fighting a losing battle. Having just left England after setting up my wife's parents and my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and most of our friends with the Freeserve ISP, why would you want to pay for Internet access? The strange situation is that here in Australia the ISP market is similar to the UK about 12 months ago, no free ISPs, just constantly lower subscription charges; I am expecting free ISPs later next year.


    Pierre Scotney

    Dear sir,

    MSN is a good system, but compared with AOL it is technically complex and users are much more likely to require phone help -- which with MSN is relatively expensive. My guess is that if MSN wishes to remain a paid-for service it will need to improve its customer relations and its help service. Otherwise my guess is that its support will continue to erode.

    David Barlow

    Dear sir,

    By all means, it doesn't create any value for either MS or the customers.

    Eric Ashihara

    Dear sir,

    It's not clear to me that going free would necessarily be the best approach for MSN. For me, as a subscriber, what I'm looking for is added value and I think I get that from MSN. What I'd like to see is extra value for my £14.95 a month. Certainly free webspace would be an advantage, and possibly greater access to MS products, extra special deals if you're looking to aggressively respond to the free providers. But in the longer term, given the way the cost of telecoms is moving, free providers will have to charge and providers who currently charge will have to reduce their fees. So maybe you'll just have to sit tight wait for the shake out of free and charging providers.

    Barry Coidan

    Dear sir,

    I have been using MSN for 2 years and have found that the service level has gradually declined. I only stay because of the hassle of telling all my contacts about a new email address. Access in Europe was withdrawn last year, I continually find that Outlook cannot find either the SMTP or POP3. Yet 10 minutes later it will.

    John Mathisen

    ZDNet UK News' Mail Room

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