WSJ.com - Mossberg: New MSN Online Service
Outshines Its Rival AOL "Ten years ago this month, I became the first national columnist to recommend an obscure, fledgling online service called America Online over its larger rivals. In that column, I noted that AOL had just 200,000 members at the time, but I called it "the sophisticated wave of the future among such services."
In the years since, I have consistently backed AOL as it grew to 35 million members in the face of sneering comments from the techie class and predictions of its doom. I stood by AOL because it focused squarely on nontechnical mainstream users, and because its main rival now, the Microsoft Network, or MSN, with about 8.7 million members today, was markedly inferior.
In the past few years, however, AOL has seemed to lose its way. While its mainstream users became more adept at going online and more reliant on e-mail, the service stubbornly retained its simplistic e-mail system and one-size-fits-all Welcome Screen. Worse, it treated members as little more than sales prospects. Meanwhile, MSN got better and better.
Now, both services have released their latest versions. After testing these two for weeks, I believe MSN has now surpassed AOL. MSN 8 offers a better online experience than AOL 8.0, in my view, even for the average, mainstream users to whom AOL has always catered."