The Microsoft Network: The Basics

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This chapter describes how to install and sign up for an account with The Microsoft Network. This chapter also briefly describes the features of this new online service from Microsoft.

For anyone with a modem and phone line, The Microsoft Network offers access at any time to the rapidly expanding world of electronic information and communication. With The Microsoft Network, users can conduct business transactions, communicate with individuals and organizations around the world, and find out information on subjects they're interested in — all from the Windows 95 desktop.

The following are benefits of signing up and using The Microsoft Network.

Minimal setup requirements.

A connection to The Microsoft Network is built into Windows 95. If users already have a modem and phone line, all they have to do is install The Microsoft Network during or after Setup, and click The icon on the desktop to connect to The Microsoft Network and become a member. After setting up an account, users can connect to The Microsoft Network by clicking its icon.

Familiar user interface.

With a user interface consistent with Windows 95 and a navigational tool similar to the Windows Explorer, users will find it easy to navigate services in The Microsoft Network. Users can create Windows 95 shortcuts to specific areas within The Microsoft Network and store those shortcuts on the desktop or any other folder in My Computer. Actions such as downloading files are as simple as using drag and drop to copy the files. And users can open Microsoft Exchange within The Microsoft Network to send and receive mail.


The Microsoft Network takes advantage of the multitasking and multithreaded design in Windows 95 so that several different tasks in The Microsoft Network can run at the same time. For example, while a file is downloading, users can browse, read electronic mail, participate in a chat room, or do anything else on The Microsoft Network.

Worldwide access.

Local dial-up access is available to The Microsoft Network in over 40 countries, and The Microsoft Network application will be available in many different languages. In the United States, nearly 100 percent of users can access a network Point of Presence (POP) server; outside of the United States, between 60 percent and 100 percent of users will have access by a local phone call, depending on the country.

In the release with Windows 95, The Microsoft Network offers the following features.

Electronic mail.

With Microsoft Exchange, users can send and receive electronic mail to and from other members of The Microsoft Network, or anyone with an electronic mailbox on the Internet.

Bulletin boards.

The Microsoft Network provides bulletin boards where users can join in-depth discussions on a variety of topics, including hardware or software from computer companies.

Chat rooms.

By participating in chat sessions, users can converse in real time with other members of The Microsoft Network by sending and receiving messages. After users find a chat room with a discussion that interests them, they can observe the conversation or send a comment for other members to see immediately.

File libraries.

The Microsoft Network allows users to easily connect to file libraries to download graphics, software, product support information, and articles.

The Internet.

With Microsoft Exchange, users can send mail to other people on the Internet, and post and reply to messages in Internet newsgroups in the same way as users would on other bulletin boards.

Users can also obtain an Internet account with The Microsoft Network by obtaining Microsoft Plus!. The Internet Signup wizard in Microsoft Plus! guides Windows 95 users through the process of obtaining an Internet account, which provides the following Internet features:

  • Internet Shortcuts, which allow users to create a shortcut in Windows 95 to an Internet resource

  • Internet Explorer, which allows users to browse the World Wide Web, FTP, and Gopher sites. Its full support for OLE allows users to drag and drop World Wide Web pages and links between the Internet Explorer, the Windows 95 desktop, and any other OLE-enabled application

Microsoft product information.

The Microsoft Network provides users with the latest technical and support information in the following forums:

  • Frequently Asked Questions provides quick answers to common technical questions.

  • Microsoft Knowledge Base contains more than 50,000 detailed articles with technical information about Microsoft products, bug and fix lists, documentation errors, and answers to commonly asked technical support questions.

  • Microsoft Software Library contains hundreds of free software add-ons, bug fixes, peripheral drivers, software updates, and programming aids for easy downloading at the user's convenience.

  • Microsoft-Facilitated Member-to-Member Bulletin Boards provide advice and answers fast from other software users.

Information services.

Information services that provide news, sports, stock and weather reports, product and product support information, and special-interest group information are accessible from The Microsoft Network.

Independent content providers (ICP)

By becoming an ICP on The Microsoft Network, a company can sell products and services in a worldwide electronic marketplace that is accessible from the Windows 95 desktop.

On This Page

The Microsoft Network: The Issues
Becoming a Member of The Microsoft Network
Security for The Microsoft Network
Navigating The Microsoft Network
Using Bulletin Boards
Using Microsoft Exchange with The Microsoft Network
Becoming an Independent Content Provider (ICP)

The Microsoft Network: The Issues

Before installing The Microsoft Network, consider the following issues:

  • When users double-click The Microsoft Network icon to sign up for an account, The Microsoft Network automatically dials a toll-free number to download price and billing information. After users fill out the billing information, The Microsoft Network automatically dials a second local number to provide access to services on The Microsoft Network.

  • If users have problems connecting, first try to resolve them by using the signup troubleshooting information in online Help. One troubleshooting topic tells you how to change the access number for a location

    If problems persist with signup, contact The Microsoft Network product support using the telephone numbers in online Help in The Microsoft Network or in msn.hlp in the Windows directory. If problems persist with using The Microsoft Network, post a message in the bulletin board in Member Assistance in The Microsoft Network.

  • Certain types of PBXs restrict users from accessing an outside telephone line or from dialing toll-free numbers, both of which are required to sign up for The Microsoft Network. If the user tries to sign up for The Microsoft Network from such a PBX, the user might see the error message "No carrier detected," or might hear a busy signal or operator message. To correct this problem, you must configure the PBX to allow users to dial toll-free numbers and access an outside line.

  • If you need to create more than one account with The Microsoft Network on a single computer, you must run Signup for each account. Click Start, click Run, and then type signup.exe to run the Signup utility.

  • Members should invent secure passwords to protect access to their accounts. They can use the same passwords as their network logon passwords or create a different ones. It is not possible to pass through an electronic mail name and password from the Windows 95 Registry. Members who want to can invent a nickname that protects their identities on The Microsoft Network.

  • If your company decides to become an ICP on The Microsoft Network, you will need to provide a forum manager for your service area. Microsoft provides information about the responsibilities of a forum manager with other information about becoming an ICP. For more information, see "Becoming an Independent Content Provider (ICP)" later in this chapter.

Becoming a Member of The Microsoft Network

Becoming a member of The Microsoft Network requires two easy steps:

  • Installing The Microsoft Network during or after Windows 95 Setup

  • Clicking The Microsoft Network icon on the Windows 95 desktop to start signup

The easiest way to install The Microsoft Network is to choose it in the Get Connected dialog box during Windows 95 Setup. Users can install it after Setup by using the Control Panel.

To install The Microsoft Network after Window 95 Setup

  1. In Control Panel, double-click the Add/Remove Programs icon.

  2. Click the Windows Setup tab, and in the Components list click The Microsoft Network, and then click OK.

To become a member of The Microsoft Network

  1. Double-click The Microsoft Network icon on the Windows 95 desktop.

  2. In The Microsoft Network dialog box, click OK.

  3. The next signup box displays the three steps for signing up with The Microsoft Network. Click each button and type the appropriate information.

  4. In the user information signup box, type your name, address, and phone number.

  5. In the billing information signup box, type your payment method (credit card name), credit card number, and expiration date.

After users connect for the first time, they should click Member Assistance on MSN Central to read about the rules for participating in The Microsoft Network.

Security for The Microsoft Network

The Microsoft Network security service authenticates and validates multiple members simultaneously logging on and off. The security service grants or denies members requests to log on and to use different areas of the service based on the rights assigned by The Microsoft Network database.

In addition, The Microsoft Network establishes and manages policies that govern what actions members can perform. This ensures the confidentiality of data and the value of transactions in The Microsoft Network

The member ID users choose when they sign up must be unique to The Microsoft Network. After a membership is terminated, The Microsoft Network does not reissue that member's member ID for 12 months to prevent confusion.

The Microsoft Network maintains a Client Negation record, which is a list of members who have been denied access for reasons of bad credit, repeated violations of The Microsoft Network rules, and so on. Members can also be excluded from individual forms for violations of rules. When users sign up, The Microsoft Network accounts database verifies that they are not on this list before approving their member IDs and passwords.

Navigating The Microsoft Network

Viewing information on The Microsoft Network is as easy as browsing through a local area network in Windows 95, because users use the same navigational tools. To move from service to service within The Microsoft Network, users double-click icons or use Windows Explorer.

Users can navigate to any of the services offered in a forum in many different ways, including the following:

  • Double-clicking an icon for the service users want.

  • Right-clicking an icon to open the Windows Explorer menu (context menu), and clicking Open.

  • Double-clicking a shortcut in a Windows 95 directory, in an electronic mail message, or in a bulletin board in The Microsoft Network. For more information, see "Shortcuts" later in this chapter.

  • Using the Go command. For more information, see "Go Commands " later in this chapter.

  • Double-clicking an icon in Favorite Places. For more information, see "Shortcuts" later in this chapter.

The Microsoft Network structures the large body of information it presents to users into a content tree. The content tree is organized so that broad categories of information are stored at the highest level, with folders at successive levels containing progressively more detailed information. The top folder in the content tree is called the Categories folder, and the contents of this folder will rarely, if ever, change.

The content tree enables users to quickly find services within The Microsoft Network and, based on a user's membership privileges, to view, subscribe, or access specific information, applications, and services.

All the services and content provided by The Microsoft Network are stored in distributed SQL databases in a Microsoft-owned data center. Initially, The Microsoft Network will have a single data center near Seattle, Washington, but Microsoft plans to provide several more data centers around the world.

MSN Central

The primary way to enter The Microsoft Network is through MSN Central, which is the highest level of the content tree. MSN Central appears when users click the icon for The Microsoft Network. From MSN Central, users can choose the following services or tools.

Home Page Icon


MSN Today

Tells users what new information has been added to the service or what special events are occurring on The Microsoft Network specifically for that day. Users can click on the corresponding icons to go directly to the services.

Electronic Mail

Starts Microsoft Exchange, allowing users to send mail to and receive mail from members of The Microsoft Network, other users of a Microsoft Mail workgroup postoffice, and people on the Internet.

Favorite Places

Opens a Favorite Places folder where users can store shortcuts to their favorite bulletin boards and chat rooms.

Member Assistance

Contains a folder with rules and behavior guidelines, membership agreement, information about The Microsoft Network for new members, practice chats and bulletin boards, The Microsoft Network customer support, and other information.


Contains all the icons for the different forums offered by The Microsoft Network, such as Arts and Entertainment, Sports, and so on. A forum is a collection of services that include bulletin boards, chat rooms, and others. Clicking a forum icon opens a folder where icons for all services within the forum are displayed, including:
• Bulletin boards to read and post messages
• Chats to carry on live conversations
• Kiosks to locate the subject matter of a forum and identify the forum manager
• File libraries to download files

Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is a powerful way to navigate The Microsoft Network content tree. A Windows Explorer window in The Microsoft Network contains folders and works the same as any Windows Explorer window in Windows 95 except in the following ways:

  • The files are read-only. Users can't create, edit, or drag and drop files in Windows Explorer in The Microsoft Network.

  • open a new window for each folder that a user opens because MSN users typically open numerous folders while exploring MSN, which can reduce available system resources. You can change this option to open a separate window for each folder in Folder properties, which can be opened from the Options item in the View menu in Windows Explorer.

To use Windows Explorer in The Microsoft Network, right-click a folder or icon, and then click Explore.

In Windows Explorer users can find out the properties of a forum or folder, including the Name, Category, Rating, Go words, and price. A forum manager for The Microsoft Network can decide which properties can function as key words. Key words are a means of tagging content so that users can search for information within the service.

To view the properties for each forum

  • Right-click the icon for a forum or folder in it, and then click Properties.


Shortcuts immediately take users to specific areas within The Microsoft Network. Users can drag and drop the shortcut to any Windows 95 folder, a word processing file, a bulletin board message, or any other OLE-compatible application. Double-clicking the shortcut will launch The Microsoft Network, log users on, and take users to the service that their shortcut referred to.

For information on creating shortcuts in Windows 95, see online Help.

Favorite Places

Favorite Places are similar to shortcuts in Windows 95, but are a special feature of The Microsoft Network. Users can use Windows Explorer to add a Favorite Places icon for a folder or forum to the Favorite Places folder in MSN Central. Unlike shortcuts, users can use Favorite Places icons only for services in The Microsoft Network, and can place them only the Favorite Places folder.

To add a service to the Favorite Places folder

  • From The Microsoft Network toolbar, click an icon, and then click the Add to Favorite Places button.

    – Or –

    Right-click an icon, and click Add To Favorite Places.

Go Commands

Users can quickly navigate to a specific service if users know its Go word, a unique identifier of a service in The Microsoft Network. Go words are defined in two places: in a Kiosk or in the properties dialog box for a service.

To determine a service's Go word

  1. Right-click an icon for a specific service, and in the Windows Explorer menu, click Properties.

  2. In Properties for that service, click the General tab. The Go word appears at the top of the General properties dialog box.

To navigate to a service using a Go command

  1. From the Edit menu in the window for any service, point to the Go To option, and then click Other Location.

  2. In the Go To Service dialog box, type the Go word, and then click OK.

Note: If users don't know the exact name of a service or subject that users are looking for, users can use the Find option from the Start menu in Windows 95, or in the File menu in Windows Explorer in The Microsoft Network. With the Find Command, users can specify search criteria such as a specific name or topic for a particular service. For more information, see online Help.

Using Bulletin Boards

A bulletin board provides a place to exchange messages. Most bulletin boards are public, which means any member of The Microsoft Network can read them. Each bulletin board has a topic, such as scuba diving, computer graphics, or current events. Users post messages about the topics to do the following:

  • Ask or answer questions

  • Offer opinions, ideas, or suggestions

  • Share facts and exchange information

  • Distribute files for other people to copy to their computers

A thread is a collection of messages users can organize chronologically or hierarchically to reflect the flow of the discussion. Messages appear in a bulletin board in three possible default views:

  • List View lists all messages in the order they were sent to the bulletin board.

  • Conversation View lists all original messages and their replies and is organized according to a conversation thread. To read replies, click the + icon; to read individual messages, double-click a message.

  • Attached Files View lists only those messages with attached files. This is an effective way of seeing information that pertains to files rather than messages.

Message views can be further sorted in each bulletin board according to their subject, author, size, or date.

To navigate through The Microsoft Network content tree to a bulletin board

  1. In MSN Central, click Categories.

  2. In the Categories window, choose a topic by double-clicking its icon.

  3. Continue to double-click icons to select subcategories until you are in the forum containing the bulletin board that interests you.

  4. In the forum window, double-click the bulletin board folder to see current messages.

To change the view of messages

  • In the bulletin board, click the View menu, and then click List, Conversation, or Attached Files.

To sort messages within a bulletin board

  • In the bulletin board, click the Subject, Author, Size, or Date button beneath the toolbar to sort accordingly.

Bulletin Board File Libraries

File libraries are read-only bulletin boards. This means that only an ICP who owns the bulletin board can post messages and files there. You can read and download files in file libraries and files attached to messages in file libraries in the same way you would in a standard bulletin board. File attachments can be graphics, software, articles, product support information, and so on.

Downloading Files From Bulletin Boards

Before users download a file, they can view its size, its price, and the length of time it will take to download. When users download it, they specify the file's destination on the hard disk in the File Transfer Status dialog box.

File Transfer Status is a utility that mediates file movement between the server and the client. It allows users to view and control how the file downloads. File Transfer Status is active whenever a file is placed in the transfer queue by an application such as a bulletin board. File Transfer Status can transfer files in the background while users continue to browse through The Microsoft Network.

To download an attached file

  1. Open a message with an attachment, right-click the attachment's icon, point to File Object, and then click Properties.

  2. In Properties for that message, examine the file's size, download time, price, and whether the forum manager has approved the file for downloading, and then click OK.

  3. In the message, click the File menu, and then click Save As.

  4. In the Save As dialog box, click the folder on the hard disk where you want the file to be saved, and then click Open. This adds the file to the queue of files to be downloaded or starts the downloading process if it is the first file to be selected for downloading.


    When files are queued, File Transfer Status checks for error conditions, such as insufficient space on the hard disk or invalid destination, and provides a corresponding error message. File Transfer Status then provides an opportunity to fix an error before the file is transferred.

    In the File Transfer Status window, the percentage of file downloaded, the time remaining, and the file's destination are displayed.

If users are downloading files that were attached using a file-compression program, File Transfer Status detects this and automatically decompresses them if the option named Automatically Decompress Files is checked in the File Transfer Options dialog box. This dialog box can be opened by clicking the Options item in the Tool menu in File Transfer Status.

Chat Rooms

A chat room allows users to carry on a live conversation (a chat) with other members of The Microsoft Network. A chat session on The Microsoft Network is similar to a conference call. However, instead of speaking words, users type them and they are displayed on-screen by The Microsoft Network for other people to read. To participate in a chat session, users should know the following:

  • Each member in the chat session is either a participant or spectator according to how the host defines the participation rules. A chat session may have one or more hosts. To become a host, you have to be a designated owner of the chat.

  • A host can control the participation rights of members in a conversation. The host uses the Host Control dialog box to change the status of a member from a participant to a spectator and vice versa.

  • There are several types of conversations, from one-on-one conversations to large "talk shows" in which there are a few participants and numerous spectators, to general purpose, multi-member conversations.

  • To join and send messages in a chat room, the conversation must not have exceeded its capacity, that is, the maximum number of members allowed in the conversation, and users must have the necessary security privileges.

  • Before users contribute to the conversation, they can observe it for a while to see if they'd like to join in. When they're ready and if they have participant status, they can send a question, answer, or comment to the other members.

  • Users can view information about a member in the Member Properties option under the View menu, if the member completed a member profile in Microsoft Exchange. For details, see "Using Microsoft Exchange with The Microsoft Network" later in this chapter.

  • Users can download a conversation history, which is a record of all messages sent to the conversation from the time a participant joined it.

To join a chat room

  1. In a forum's window, double-click the Chat icon.

    The Microsoft Network informs other participants that you have joined the conversation.

  2. Type a message in the lower box and then click Send.

    Pressing ENTER also sends text and, therefore, cannot be used within a message. However, you can press CTRL+ENTER to insert a carriage return in your message.

  3. To exit, click the File menu, and then click Exit.

Using Microsoft Exchange with The Microsoft Network

The Microsoft Network has been integrated with the Microsoft Exchange client that is provided with Windows 95. All electronic mail messages sent to or from other members of The Microsoft Network appear in the same mailbox as messages from other electronic mail (such as LAN mail), or information services such as CompuServe® or the Internet.

All features of Microsoft Exchange are available to users when users run The Microsoft Network. Because both Microsoft Exchange and The Microsoft Network support binary file transfers and OLE, users can attach spreadsheets, graphics files, word processing documents, or almost any other kind of electronic file to a mail message.

Before users send and receive mail in The Microsoft Network, they must complete the following steps:

  • Install and configure Microsoft Exchange in Windows 95

  • Connect to The Microsoft Network

For more information about setting up Microsoft Exchange, see Chapter 26, "Electronic Mail and Microsoft Exchange."

To send or receive mail within The Microsoft Network

  • In MSN Central, click E-mail to open Microsoft Exchange.

Note: When users sign up for The Microsoft Network, their primary Microsoft Exchange profile will be updated so that The Microsoft Network is included as both an information service and an address book provider. Users can send and receive mail over The Microsoft Network without further configuring Microsoft Exchange or The Microsoft Network.

To send mail on the Internet

  1. In MSN Central, click E-mail.

  2. Click Compose, and then click New Message.

  3. In the To box, specify an Internet address.

An Internet address consists of a user name and a domain name, separated by an at sign(@). In the following example, jim256 is the user name and is the domain:

In the next example, rks is the user name and is the domain:

For more information about domain names, see Chapter 30, "Internet Access."

Mail from other users on the Internet appears in the Microsoft Exchange Inbox along with other messages.

To download mail from The Microsoft Network at startup of Microsoft Exchange

  1. In Control Panel, double-click the Mail And Fax option.

  2. In the Microsoft Exchange Settings Properties, click The Microsoft Network Online Service, and then click Properties.

  3. In Transport properties, click the option named Download Mail When E-Mail Starts Up From MSN.

As a result of this procedure, The Microsoft Network connection box will be displayed every time users run The Microsoft Network. Users can cancel the connection and choose to download their mail from The Microsoft Network at a later time from within Windows 95 or from within The Microsoft Network.

To download mail from The Microsoft Network after Microsoft Exchange startup

  • In Microsoft Exchange, click the Tools menu, and point to Connect To, and then click The Microsoft Network.

The Microsoft Network maintains an address book on The Microsoft Network servers that includes the name and electronic mail address of each member of The Microsoft Network. Users can access the address book in Microsoft Exchange, or in the Member Assistance section of The Microsoft Network. The Microsoft Network address book is available only when users are connected to The Microsoft Network because it is too large to copy to a local computer.

The Microsoft Network provides separate address books for each major region in the United States, Europe, Australia, and other countries. All members can access all of these address books. All address books appear in the list of address books in the Microsoft Exchange Address Book window.

For more information about using address books in Microsoft Exchange, see Chapter 26, "Electronic Mail and Microsoft Exchange."

To display member information

  1. In Microsoft Exchange, open The Microsoft Network address book, and then double-click a member's name.

  2. In the User Information dialog box, view information about the member, such as city, birth date, comments, and so on.


The Microsoft Network automatically charges users a monthly fee for using its services and a monthly base fee for additional blocks of time for the subscription services that users choose. If users spend time connected to a service beyond the allotted number of minutes they purchase with a subscription, The Microsoft Network assesses them a usage charge.

For example, a subscription to Forum XYZ may give users up to 20 minutes of connect time per month. Users will be charged an additional fee for the time they spend online in excess of 20 minutes.

Before users download a file, the Microsoft Network gives users information about whether there is a fee for copying it. If users download a file that has a fee, they will see the filename and the charge for downloading it.

All charges appear in a billing statement, which shows a user's current balance and all charges to the account by date. Payments and credits are shown as negative values. If there is a tax on any charge, it is figured automatically and included in the total. Users will be billed monthly; the billing date corresponds to the date they signed up for The Microsoft Network.

For more information about billing, see online Help in The Microsoft Network.

Becoming an Independent Content Provider (ICP)

By becoming an ICP, companies can sell products and services in a worldwide electronic marketplace that is accessible from the Windows 95 desktop.

ICPs conduct business on The Microsoft Network on a transaction basis and retain the majority of the revenues from these transactions. ICPs aren't limited in the ways in which they realize revenues for their services. Variable revenue and pricing models such as subscriptions, online transactions, advertising subsidies, and ticketed events are available at the provider's discretion. Providers Transactions can be of the following types:

  • Electronic files that can be downloaded

  • Chat rooms with cover charges

  • Forums with cover charges

  • Monthly subscription fees for certain areas of a forum

  • Sales of advertising and sponsorships

To obtain information about becoming an ICP, call (800) 4MSNFAX or (800) 467-6329. You will receive by fax a summary of The Microsoft Network, a guide to formatting your business proposal, and a nondisclosure agreement. To receive this information by mail, please write:

The Microsoft Network

Department MSN19
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399