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Originally published November 4, 2009 at 12:07 AM | Page modified November 4, 2009 at 11:18 AM

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Microsoft to do major revamp of MSN site

In the first redo in a decade, Microsoft is introducing a wide-ranging redesign of its MSN Web site that's aimed at refreshing the portal and capturing broad trends of online use.

Microsoft is introducing a wide-ranging redesign of its long-standing MSN Web site that's aimed at refreshing the portal and capturing broad trends of online use.

MSN, which has been around since the early days of the Web in the mid-1990s, has not seen such a makeover in a decade, the company said.

"This is an important, valuable asset for Microsoft," Bob Visse, general manager of MSN Product Management group, said of the site, which now draws more than 600 million users worldwide.

The redesign will be available beginning today in a preview stage at http://preview.msn.com. The company expects it to go live sometime in the first quarter of 2010, Visse said.

The biggest obvious change is a de-cluttering of the site. Visse said the redesigned site has 50 percent fewer links from the "link mall" that has marked the current site.

The readability of the redesigned site is being enhanced by considerable use of white space, which gives an airiness that contrasts with the densely packed look of the current site.

The redesign also reorganizes the site's content into areas of emphasis: news, sports, entertainment and local (which also includes a local events calendar).

"Content is still the No. 1 area of consumption," Visse said, referring to how the site focuses on what Microsoft considers core content areas.

That contrasts somewhat with the other leading portals, Yahoo and AOL. The former offers technology and applications that allow users to personalize their page more, while the latter emphasizes numerous special-interest sites that link from the main page.

Another hallmark of the redesign is the prominence accorded Bing, which has gained high visibility since its introduction to the market in May as an improved, newly branded search engine. In fact, the Bing presence underscored the redesign effort along with Microsoft's Silverlight technology to play video, Windows Live technology and support for advertisers, especially some of the biggest brands.

In executing the redesign, Visse said, Microsoft examined broad online trends, including the popularity of social networking.

The redesign includes a component that allows users easy access to their Facebook and Twitter activities, as well as Windows Live communications tools and Hotmail e-mail accounts.

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