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Microsoft's Latest Lesson

November 4, 2009 (CAP Newswire) — To little fanfare, Microsoft’s Encarta shut down over the weekend, marking the end of its experiment to provide a comprehensive online encyclopedia to users over the Internet.

“On October 31, 2009, this Web site, and all other MSN® Encarta® Web sites worldwide will be discontinued, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will be discontinued on December 31, 2009. Additionally, Microsoft will cease to sell Microsoft Student and Encarta Premium software products worldwide by June 2009,” read a notice on the site's main page.

It’s probably safe to blame the end of Encarta on Wikipedia and its massive popularity, gained only over the past three or four years (though it seems like much longer than that), and achieved primarily through search engine dominance. In the end, Encarta couldn’t compete with the more appealing, user-driven wiki technology.

What does this mean for Microsoft? Long the reigning champ of OS technology, the company has continuously struggled on the Internet. Its search engine can’t come close to competing with Google, and its user-focused offerings like Encarta have difficulty picking up popularity.

The company certainly won’t be going away any time soon, but still, it provides a useful example of how online business is more and more often favoring the flexible, innovative start-up over the giant, slow-moving, old school dinosaurs. There’s also likely a lesson here in how user-driven software seems destined to conquer corporate-oriented sites.