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Microsoft to shut down Encarta online, stop software

Post by Kelly Kearsley on March 31, 2009 at 1:03 pm with No Comments »
March 31, 2009 1:03 pm

From The Associated Press:

Microsoft Corp.’s digital encyclopedia, Encarta, might have pushed its printed competitors off the shelves in some homes. Now Encarta itself has fallen victim to changes in technology, made all but obsolete by the likes of Web search and Wikipedia.

Microsoft said it will shut down the online version of Encarta in October and will discontinue sales of the PC software by June.

Encarta was first sold to computer users as a CD-ROM-based encyclopedia in 1993. Critics questioned some of Microsoft’s editorial decisions, including the fact that Encarta’s dictionary had a photo of Bill Gates and not one of John F. Kennedy. But the electronic knowledge base was an early example of the advantages of digital content over the printed word. Encarta was quickly searchable, and could pack more images, plus video and sound.

Encarta gained a further edge over bound volumes in the early days of the Web because it could pull down updated content while its printed competitors’ articles grew stale.

But CD-ROM reference materials quickly turned to relics as high-speed Internet access spread, Web search improved and ventures like Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia compiled and constantly updated by volunteers, gained credibility. Microsoft’s free and premium versions of Encarta suffered.

“People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past,” the Redmond, Wash.-based company said in a statement on its Web site.

The company said customers with subscriptions to its premium Encarta service will get a refund for fees paid beyond April 30, but will be able to access the content with their user names and passwords until the service goes off-line. Encarta Japan will shut down on Dec. 31.

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