Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Encarta R.I.P.

Microsoft’s encyclopedia Encarta has given up the struggle against Wikipedia, Google and, well, the entire Internet. When information really did become free, no one would pay for it. Randall Stross, a professor of business at San Jose State University, writes in this obituary in the New York Times that Encarta’s launch price in 1993 was $US 395; recently it was selling for $US 22.95. Stross observes:
Fifty people — editors, fact-checkers and indexers — were on the team in 2000, at the peak of Microsoft’s editorial investment in Encarta. . .

That investment, however, seems to have gone unnoticed by Encarta’s users. Tom Corddry, a senior manager at Microsoft from 1989 to 1996 who headed up its multimedia publishing unit, said, “The editors overestimated the way students would say, ‘This has been carefully edited! And is very authoritative!’”

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