MSN vs. Windows Live – What’s the real difference?


Microsoft has 2 kinda different web services. One is MSN  and the other is Windows Live. Here’s the recap:

MSN – (short for Microsoft Network) was the first orignal one. It began in August 24, 1995 and was meant to coincide with the release of Windows 95 and be kind of a rival against America Online (now AOL). It has been somewhat successful in services, due to worldwise use of MSN Hotmail and MSN Messenger, but flat in terms of users who use it to search the internet. It’s ranked as the 2nd most visited site in the world, right after Yahoo!.

Windows Live – Started around November 2005, is Microsoft’s answer to it’s lack of users who use it search which. It’s primary function is to provide great search and services. Some of the MSN services got switched to Windows Live to help with the services part. It’s meant to be complimentry with MSN (you know, go along with each other, not rivals). Most of it is still relatively new, and there are still many betas out, which should explain why it hasn’t been too popular lately.

So what’s the difference between the two? That’s what many people still question today, since Microsoft hasn’t done too much of a good job of explaining it. So here’s basically what’s the difference:

MSN = a place for content (like news, sports, entertainment, events, that type of stuff)

Windows Live = a place for search + services (like web search, e-mail, IM, useful apps. and that type of stuff)

So there it is. Does that help much? It should. That’s really the bare bones of it. But this would bring up another question: "Why couldn’t Microsoft just bundle them under one umbrella?" Yahoo! does it. They got search, mail, news, and all that good stuff all under just Yahoo!. Google is really only the search and services equivalent. It’s not the place you go for content (which makes it directly compete with Windows Live, not really MSN). Here’s why I think Microsoft did this thing:

Microsoft probaly did this because they were feeling kind of desperate I think. The worldwide use of the Internet is always pushing. Maybe a decade ago, the internet didn’t seem like much to Microsoft. They thought that mainly everything will be on the desktop, and not the web. So MSN was a small thing to them. But the web has really become the thing, and virtually, that’s what most people will do on the computer today. So Microsoft feels that if they don’t join in with good involvement, they’ll be left out, and might eventually die or not be as successful. At least they realized that. So they decided to start fresh, and launch Windows Live, hoping to move along forward. At first, they kind of expect everything MSN to be converted into Windows Live, but at some time, they decided to keep MSN and just move some stuff to Windows Live (and then later, some went back to MSN). That’s the problem. It’s been all confusing to the users who use them. Constantly change some service, keeping some the same, moving back some, and even constantly switching the names, or having some that sound and act similiar has really been frustrating to most people. I don’t blame them. Microsoft really hasn’t done any good in explaining all these changes and stuff. But at least it has improved a lot the past few months. People are starting to like some of the services. Windows Live Writer (which I’m using) has becoming a favorite amongst bloggers of all kind. Windows Live Messenger is loved by most of the world (although for some reason, U.S. users like AIM, which to me is blucky). The new Hotmail has really gained some momentum, and people really love this new e-mail service (and hated the old Hotmail). Live Maps is gaining lots of love, since it has stuff Google Maps definitely doesn’t have. That’s just some of it. So they really are improving, and that’s good. Even search has gone up in the past few months, increasing by less than a fraction of a percent, but at least it’s going up.

But there’s still one problem. How to address the difference between MSN and Windows Live. Here’s what I think they should do:

  1. Put out ads to show the difference – Put out some visual web ad, that shows simply/exactly the way I said how they were different. Nothing can be more simple than what I said about MSN = content, and Windows Live = search + services. And I guess they could go on to list the examples to go along with, and whatever. Put some ads out there to show what the exact difference is, and people can understand. It’s sad that bloggers like me have to explain it, while Microsoft can’t do it, itself.
  2. Finish up all the beta work – There are still tons of betas out there, and with all the changing and rearranging, it’s easy to see why people can get confused. So please, finish up with these betas as fast as you can, and put them out as finished. Then people can actually use them, and know that they are what they are. This is most likely to blame with the not so full success of Windows Live yet.
  3. Put some stronger momentum into it – Microsoft really needs to be more dedicated to the web if it really wants to be successful. As of now, they’re kind of so-so. But with the release of Vista and Office 2007, 2 major products, they should have some more time now to work on their web services. At least I hope so. They should make more team-dedicated blogs. There are some services who do have a Live Spaces blog, to update people about improvements, news, neat shortcuts, and other things to come. But some of them are really lackluster, with barely any soul in the writing, ugly looking Live Spaces, and just not as fully into the blogging that would make anyone take some time to read it. Although there are some that are quite good. Surprise us with stuff. Enhance already existing platforms more often. The future is basically now, and if you take too long, you’re going to lose out.

That’s really all I have to say about the difference between the 2, the reasons why they are as they are today, and what Microsoft can do to improve upon it. Sorry it was so long. Thanks for reading.


12 thoughts on “MSN vs. Windows Live – What’s the real difference?

  1. Hi Michael, are you ok?
    This text is great! I keep a Portugese site about Microsoft; can I translate and publich yout texto there? Of course, I\’ll give the credits and link to this page.
    I\’m waiting a reply.
    Rodrigo P. Ghedin.

  2. as thorough as this explanation seems, i don\’t understand why Microsoft isn\’t consolidating these two offerings… i\’m so confused! why would i complicate my life by employing either platform. if another gives comparable capabilities in 1 simple bundle (w/ 1 simple name!), i\’m surely willing to overlook the small victories offered under this two-or-more compatible products bullshizz!Microsoft is complicating their product-line enough to lose even more market share IMO… web-based or otherwise, they\’re a dying breed.

  3. What Microsoft seems to be doing is building up unique brands for each service. Bing is there search. MSN is the primary web portal (like Yahoo) for your news and information. Zune is there HD music, movies and TV content delivery. Xbox and Games for Windows live is there gaming platform. Windows Live seems a bit of a half hearted effort to build social networking. I do think Microsoft should probably obandon Windows Live moniker and continue with everything under MSN. MSN for consumer services and Office Live for business. I believe the greatest threat to Microsoft is Google. Bing is trying to attack that, but I believe it will require a wholistic approach to it all in bringing all these web apps together and intergrate them.

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