Microsoft is now introducing its own personalized news reading experience called Microsoft Start, which is available as both a website and a mobile app, in addition to being integrated with other Microsoft products, including Windows 10 and 11 and its Microsoft Edge web browser. The feed will combine content from news publishers, but in a way tailored to the individual interests of users, according to the company – a system of personalization that could help Microsoft better compete with the news reading experiences offered by competitors. like Apple or Google, as well as popular third-party apps like Flipboard or SmartNews.
Microsoft says the product builds on the company’s legacy with online and mobile consumer services like MSN and Microsoft News. However, it will not replace MSN. This service will remain available, despite the launch of this new internal competitor.
To use Microsoft Start, consumers can visit the stand-alone MicrosoftStart.com website, which works on both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge (but not Safari), or they can download the Microsoft Start mobile app for iOS or Android.
The service will also power the News & Interest experience on the Windows 10 taskbar and the Widgets experience on Windows 11. In Microsoft Edge, it will also be available from the New Tab page.
At first glance, the Microsoft Start website looks a lot like any other online portal that has a collection of news from various publishers, as well as widgets for things like weather, actions, sports scores, and traffic. . When you click to read an article, you’ll be taken to a syndicated version hosted on Microsoft’s domain, which includes the Microsoft Start top navigation bar at the top and emoji reaction buttons below the title.
Users can also react to stories with emojis while browsing the home page itself.
This emoji set is similar to the one offered today by Facebook, except that Microsoft replaced the controversial Facebook laughing face emoji with a thinking face. (It should be noted that Facebook’s laughing face has increasingly been criticized for being used to openly ridicule posts and make fun of people – even on stories depicting tragic events, like the Covid deaths, for example. )
Microsoft has also made another change to its emoji: After reacting to a story with an emoji, you only see your emoji instead of the first three and the total number of reactions.
But while online web portals tend to be static aggregators of news content, Microsoft Start’s feed will adapt to user interests in several different ways.
Users can click a “Customize” button to go to a page where they can manually add and remove interests in a number of high level categories such as News, Entertainment, Sports, Tech, Money , finance, travel, health, shopping, and more. Or they can search for categories and interests that could be more specific or more specialized. (Instead of “parenting,” for example, “parenting teenagers.”) This is reminiscent of the recent update Flipboard made to its own main page, the For You feed, which allows users to make similar choices. .
When users start browsing their Microsoft Start feed, they can also click a button to show a thumbs up or down for an article to better tailor the feed to their preferences. Over time, the more the user interacts with the content, the more refined the flow, says Microsoft. This customization will take advantage of AI and machine learning, as well as human moderation, the company notes.
The feed, like other online portals, is supported by advertising. As you scroll down, you’ll notice that every few lines will have an ad unit, where the URL is marked with a green “Announcement” badge. Initially, these are mostly product announcements, which sets them apart from news content. Since Microsoft is not shutting down MSN and is integrating this news service into a number of other products, it is expanding the available advertising space it can offer with this launch.
The website, app, and integrations are rolled out starting today. (If you still can’t find the new app – it replaces Microsoft News – you can try scanning the QR code from your mobile device. We have currently found that the app has been deployed to iOS, but the link directed us to Microsoft News on Android. Your mileage may vary.)