The redesigned Custom Start Page, which is in beta testing now, adds a range of new customization features, including targeted multimedia sound and news feeds, to the existing MSN home page. The new page is part of a larger migration of the proprietary MSN online service to the Web, expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Microsoft and Netscape Communications, along with other Web sites, are hoping to snare users with sites that assemble Internet information into highly personalized views. Last April, Netscape launched its Personal Workspace site to let users select the layout and news feeds for their own custom pages.
MSN's new home page, which will be free for all users of the online service, adds sports, financial, and other news sources; music clips; and, of course, promotions for Microsoft products and publishing efforts such as Slate magazine and online soap opera 475 Madison Avenue.
According to an MSN official, the new home page will likely be redesigned again when more MSN content begins moving to the Web en masse in the fall. At that point, only paying MSN subscribers will be able to access the majority of the site's information. The MSN supersite will remain distinct from the MSNBC Web site, a separate joint cable and Net venture between Microsoft and NBC.
In related news, Microsoft also unveiled today a redesigned home page for its microsoft.com site that is designed to ease downloading times.