MSN subscribers are being forced to use web-based e-mail, instead of the standard POP3 e-mail that was previously available. It’s similar to Hotmail, although the default installation of the MSN software on your own computer gives you a highly customized screen for viewing your mail. If you’re an MSN subscriber, the advantage is that your mail can also be viewed from any Internet browser anywhere – you’re not limited to viewing your e-mail on your own computer. But MSN has done a terrible job of implementing the service and helping existing customers deal with the migration. The change hasn’t been adequately described and subscribers weren’t warned about the consequences. Although it’s theoretically possible to retrieve the new MSN messages into Outlook Express, I tried valiantly and failed on two different occasions. (My conclusion was that the service and the software to implement it were horribly broken. I’m sure it can be made to work on some systems if the stars are aligned a certain way, but I wouldn’t wish the ordeal I went through on anyone.)

The Register wrote an article today about the same problems affecting MSN subscribers in Great Britain. Between this and the too-cute screen makeover that turns the browser into a maze of buttons and advertisements – well, MSN has the same charm and appeal as America Online, sad to say.

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