Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) will discontinue both its MSN Encarta reference Web sites as well as its Encarta software, which have both been surpassed by rising competitors, like Wikipedia. In a message posted on the MSN Encarta Web site, Microsoft says, “Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.”
Online, Microsoft offered a limited selection of professionally edited content for free and a larger selection for a subscription. But the offerings paled when compared to those at sites that could use the work of thousands of contributors. Wikipedia, for instance, offers 2.7 million articles in English. Google’s Knol, which like Wikipedia depends on user-generated content, has more than 100,000. Encarta has 42,000 entries. Encarta did try to adapt, inviting users to submit suggestions for changes to articles, but those suggestions first had to be checked by a member of the Encarta staff. And Encarta did not allow users to submit new entries.
The decision to cut Encarta also comes as Microsoft looks to cut costs. The company has discontinued several products this year, including its Train Simulator game. A Microsoft spokeswoman would not say whether any jobs would be cut due to the closing of Encarta. “The decision to exit the Encarta business is one piece of a broader strategy to continue to evolve our product offerings to address the next wave of people’s search and research needs,” she said. “We will continue to evaluate online reference business opportunities and will consider how Encarta and key learnings acquired over the past nearly 20 years of developing it can inform and strengthen our future educational solutions.”.
The news was first reported by Ars Technica.