Microsoft Previews New MSN Web Communities

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 3, 1999 — With millions of new users and Web sites coming online each day, the Internet can often seem daunting: big, unfriendly and impersonal. To create a sense of familiarity, many users are developing or joining online communities, or Web
to bring together family, friends or fellow “netizens” who share common interests.

To help meet the growing worldwide demand for these communities, Microsoft this week unveiled MSN Web Communities, a free service that will allow people in the United States and 27 other countries to use popular Internet communication tools, such as Web pages, chat rooms, message boards and email, to create their own communities on the Internet. Using this service, members can customize and maintain their communities without knowing HTML or using complicated programs.

“In just a few minutes, people can create a customized online club that reflects the personality and interests of their group,”
said Rob Bennett, group product manager for the Consumer and Commerce Group at Microsoft.
“For example, a family could create a community to post pictures, have real-time chats with grandma and plan a family reunion.”

The service’s Web-based interface makes building a home page as easy as writing a letter; familiar toolbars and buttons allow users to work with multiple fonts, colors and text sizes. Users can also enhance their community with clip art or photos, using a unique “Photo Uploader” that enables them to easily add multiple graphics to their pages. Microsoft also announced that MSN Web Communities will include support for 23 languages within the next few weeks; this is the first time such a service has offered extensive international support, allowing people worldwide to interact with others on topics that interest them.

MSN Web Communities is hoping to keep members involved in their communities by providing the option to receive automatic, personalized email when there are new messages to read or new photos to see. Members can also get a snapshot of recent activity using a
“My Communities”
page that provides an instant status report on all of the communities to which they belong.

To enhance security and simplify identification, the service uses Microsoft Passport to streamline the process of building and joining communities. Users are required to register for a Passport before creating or joining a community; their member name and password is their unique identifier for all MSN Web Communities — as well as all participating Passport sites. Passport also uses strong encryption and privacy policies to help ensure the security of members’ personal data.

As the Internet grows, more people around the world will realize the benefits of services like MSN Web Communities, user-driven Web sites that offer a secure, friendly, easy-to-use way for people with common interests to stay connected.

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