IS MSN ON THE BLOCK?

TURMOIL AT MICROSOFT'S FLAGSHIP ONLINE SERVICE

When the Microsoft Network opened its virtual doors in August 1995, most people assumed that the new online service would swamp all comers. MSN put the Internet just a mouse click away on Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows 95 operating system, which seemed to guarantee that the company whose software dominated the desktop would soon dominate the Net as well. How on earth, or in cyberspace, could anyone compete?

Imagine, then, the, er, disappointment that must have been building in chairman Bill Gates' office as membership in his main competitor, America Online, soared to 9 million, while MSN's stalled out at 2.6 million....

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