Microsoft launches personalized news service, Microsoft Start – TechCrunch

Microsoft is today presentation its own personalized news reading experience called Microsoft Start, 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 that suits users’ individual interests, the company says – 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 website MicrosoftStart.com, 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 feed the News & Interests 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.

Image credits: Microsoft

At first glance, the Microsoft Start website looks a lot like any other online portal that has a collection of news from various publishers, along with 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 homepage itself.

This set of emoji is similar to the one offered today by Facebook, except that Microsoft has replaced the controversial Facebook laughing face emoji with a thinking face. (It should be noted that Facebook’s laughing face has been more and more critical for being used to openly ridicule messages and make fun of people – even on stories depicting tragic events, like deaths from COVID, 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.

Image credits: Microsoft

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. .

As users begin to browse their Microsoft Start feed, they can also click a button to show a thumbs up or thumbs down for an article to better tailor the feed to their preferences. Over time, the more the user is interested in the content, the more the flow becomes refined, explains 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 with a number of other products, it is expanding the available advertising space it can offer with this launch.

According to the iOS app’s privacy label, data used to track users on websites and apps owned by other companies includes User ID. For comparison, Google News does not include a tracking section. Microsoft Start and Google News both collect a wealth of “data related to you,” such as location, IDs, search history, usage data, contact details, and more. The website itself, however, only contains links to Microsoft General Privacy Policy.

When contacted for comment, Microsoft told us that Microsoft Start does not “aggregate or resell personalized data to advertisers, data brokers, or other third parties.” In addition, users can delete their personalized profile at any time either by deleting their cookie for the site, if they are not logged in, or through the Microsoft privacy dashboard, if they are logged in with their Microsoft account. *

The website, app, and integrations are rolled out starting today. (If you still can’t find the new app – it’s replacing 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.)

* Updated 9/9/21 with more details on Microsoft Start’s privacy controls and data use policies.