REDMOND, Wash., May 21, 2001 — With today’s announcement of the global rollout of
MSN Explorer, MSN revealed plans to deliver its new, all-in-one Internet software to 30 international markets by the end of the year.
To learn more about the challenges of localizing consumer software for so many different markets worldwide, PressPass spoke with Lotfi Herzi, international Group manager for MSN.
PressPass: Why launch MSN Explorer in so many markets?
Herzi : MSN is a global leader on the Internet, reaching more than 230 million users each month, and more than half of those people reside outside the United States. MSN Explorer was created to meet the needs of consumers who are still new to — or unfulfilled with — the Internet, and that doesn’t just mean Americans. We want to bring the same benefits of easy, personal and exciting messages to people living in Australia, Brazil, Japan, France and so on. With MSN Explorer, we treat each market as unique.
PressPass: Why is the international MSN Explorer launch significant?
Herzi : From a software-localization standpoint, MSN Explorer represents an achievement that no other Internet company has done. Each of the 30 international versions is not only localized for language but also tailored to the unique needs and interests of each market. For example, there are nine different MSN Explorer versions in the English language alone.
Not only is each version integrated with a local version of MSN services, such as MSN Hotmail and MSN Messenger, but also, each is integrated with local content that is most interesting to users in that country. For example, local news is very different among Australia, Singapore, South Africa and the United Kingdom, even though it is written in English in each of those markets. No other company offers this free integrated client and content experience in so many markets, particularly while still giving consumers access to the whole World Wide Web.
PressPass: You have a concept called “marketization.” What does it mean for consumers?
Herzi : MSN Explorer represents the marriage of software client localization with specific links to local content, which we call “marketization.” It gives consumers an integrated experience that helps them get more that is relevant to their needs from the Internet. Client software localization typically includes language changes to the user interface, menus, pop-ups and so on. Clients are also localized by locale, which means considering where a person is physically located and localizing such things as currency and date format. Microsoft has a long history of this type of localization.
Because MSN Explorer also acts as a portal to the Internet, “marketization” is needed to tailor the experience to the unique needs and interests of each market. This involves forming relationships with content providers for local shopping, news, weather, entertainment and other content specific to each local market. That’s how we make sure the consumer has a local content experience.
For MSN Explorer, marketization results in different “chromes,” which frame the content for each of the Spanish-speaking markets, as well as each English-speaking and Chinese-speaking market. Chromes have toolbars that differ from market to market; different icons reflect the services available in each market. This also requires work on the server-computer side, because each MSN Explorer version may offer a different experience. The bar on the left side, which we call “MyStuff,” also differs according to the market, as do the settings each user can choose to customize.
What are some examples of the “marketization” of MSN Explorer?
Herzi : All the toolbars include icons for Mail, Buddies and Home, but they vary for Shopping and Money, depending on the local service and what users visit most in that market. For instance, the Explorer toolbar in Japan includes a News icon because for MSN Japan, traffic is higher for news than for music, whereas in Brazil the toolbar has a Music icon. Clicking on the Buddies icon in the German version will bring up the MSN Messenger service in German, but in Singapore, the Buddies icon takes the user to either the Chinese or English MSN Messenger version, depending on the language setting on the user’s PC.
MyStuff differs for each market, and will improve as MSN continues to form content alliances with local providers. MyStuff links the user to the local content source most appropriate for their interests.
PressPass: How many people were involved in the localization effort, and where were they?
PressPass: How does the “marketization” of MSN Explorer make the consumer experience better from a portal standpoint? Aren’t the 30 portals already tailored to local needs?
Herzi : True, they are. MSN portals around the world independently determine their local channel and content selection. For example, there is a cricket channel on MSN India and a fortune-telling channel on MSN Taiwan. With MSN Explorer, each portal has a cleaner, friendlier look to the home page that is more integrated with MSN Explorer. With most of the navigation and information on buddies and unread messages on the toolbar, there is more room for content on the screen. Because MSN Explorer works with XML feeds, there is content dynamically available to the user immediately without a further connection to the server.
PressPass: MSN’s competitors localize their sites, too. What do international versions of MSN Explorer offer consumers that other portals do not?
Herzi : First, MSN Explorer brings several world-class Web services together in an integrated, easy-to-use place that makes it easy for consumers to get more from their time online. Second, MSN Explorer is free and can be used with any Internet Service Provider (ISP). That is important for international markets, where people may have several free ISPs. You could say that MSN Explorer is so personal, you can use it anywhere you access the Web.