Microsoft Shutting Down Encarta

Microsoft announced that it will be discontinuing its Encarta online encyclopedia service. Although the announcement doesn't mention the word "Wikipedia," that competing and free service is directly responsible for Encarta's demise.

"The category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed, \[and\] people today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past," the company writes in a statement announcing its decision to exit the Encarta business. "On October 31, 2009, MSN Encarta websites 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."

Wikipedia's greatest strength—and, arguably, its greatest weakness—is that it's constantly updated by people around the globe. Encarta, meanwhile, actually has an editorial process that ensures that its articles are accurate, although it's less frequently updated. Thus, Encarta is horribly out of date in many places, compared with Wikipedia, which is simply wrong in many places. Clearly, the market has spoken in favor of the latter.

People who have paid for subscriptions to Encarta will be receiving refunds. People who have been duped by Wikipedia, meanwhile, are of course on their own

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