The Microsoft Network

In 1998 or thereabouts, I found myself switching internet service providers. Back then, your email was tied to your ISP, and picking one said a lot about you. I had been with Earthlink for a few years, mostly because they had a dial-up number where I lived. (Yes folks this was a long time ago.)

There were some untrue rumors floating around in those days about Earthlink and so I was ready to move on. It’s not like there were a lot of choices but I was sure I didn’t want AOL. Although I had been an early AOL user in the late 1980s, I’d spent enough time railing about them in the intervening years that I knew I wasn’t going that direction. So, I took a look at Microsoft’s then-new online service, The Microsoft Network.

When Microsoft ruled the world

Microsoft was the undisputed king of the computer world in the 1990s. They had the top operating system and the top office productivity suite. And, when they rolled out their flagship operating system in 1995, they rolled out an online service to go with it.

Microsoft back then seemed unstoppable. The government tried to stop them, claiming that they violated antitrust laws by giving away Internet Explorer. (Note, this was when people actually wanted Internet Explorer.) Initially the government won, but the case was overturned on appeal, and drove the direction of computers to this day.

So yes, back then, I was entralled with the idea of backing a winner and joining The Microsoft Network.

For some reason this image had a lot to do with it.

I cannot tell you precisely why but I thought this was the most sleek and sophisticated piece of internet software I had seen to date. Perhaps it was due to its use of real photos when the competition used cartoons.  Admittedly, it looked a lot better than the competition:

And so I joined The Microsoft Network, almost immediately abbreviated MSN.

What happened to The Microsoft Network?

As for me, I moved to a different ISP not that long after, when I moved to 384K DSL which blew me away with its speed. But MSN continued on without me, inexplicably.

Here’s a scary little secret. MSN sort of morphed into a home page and rebranded part of itself as “Bing.” Microsoft bought Hotmail in 1997 and later rebranded that product to “Outlook.com” which seemed hip for about a week and a half. But, if you’re looking for dialup it’s still around and you can still sign up for it. No I am not kidding.

For the princely sum of $15 a month, you can go here and sign up for what’s now called “MSN Dialup Internet Access” If that sounds like a bargain because it’s the same price you paid in 1997, it’s not. Try doing literally anything on the internet using a dial-up modem and you’ll want to pay literally anything to upgrade.

What about you? Did you belong to The Microsoft Network? What was your experience? Leave a comment below!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.