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Microsoft closing the book on Encarta

The software maker decides to shelve its online encyclopedia, no doubt due to the growth of alternatives such as Wikipedia.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
2 min read

Microsoft has quietly confirmed that it is getting out of the encyclopedia business, ending its long-standing Encarta product.

As noted by Ars Technica, the software maker says it will discontinue all its online Encarta products by October, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will run through the end of the year. It will also stop selling Microsoft Student and Encarta Premium, paid software products that included the online encyclopedia.

In a posting on its Web site, Microsoft said that the move reflected the change in the way people use reference material. It didn't mention Wikipedia by name, but I think we all know the biggest change to encyclopedias to come around in recent memory.

"Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years," Microsoft said. "However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past. As part of Microsoft's goal to deliver the most effective and engaging resources for today's consumer, it has made the decision to exit the Encarta business."

The move is one of a relative handful of products that Microsoft has discontinued in the wake of expense cuts implemented in January, cuts that included the company's first across-the-board layoffs.

Last week, Microsoft said it was scrapping a Web analytics product that was in beta. In November, the company announced plans to stop selling its Windows Live OneCare antivirus product.

Microsoft has been publishing Encarta, in various forms, for more than a decade. It has also scooped up various print encyclopedias along the way, according to Wikipedia (I love irony). While the original Encarta was based on Funk and Wagnalls, Microsoft later bought Collier's Encyclopedia and New Merit Scholar's Encyclopedia and incorporated those two products into Encarta, again according to Wikipedia.