Microsoft published similar encyclopedias under the Encarta trademark in various languages, including German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese. Localized versions may contain contents licensed from available national sources and may contain more or less content than the full English version. For example, the Dutch version had content from the Dutch Winkler Prins encyclopedia.
In March 2009, Microsoft announced it was discontinuing the Encarta disc and online versions. The MSN Encarta site in all countries except Japan was closed on October 31, 2009. Japans Encarta site was closed on December 31, 2009. Microsoft continued to operate the Encarta online dictionary at dictionary.msn.com until 2011.
In the late 1990s, Microsoft bought Colliers Encyclopedia and New Merit Scholars Encyclopedia from Macmillan and incorporated them into Encarta. Thus the current Microsoft Encarta can be considered the successor of the Funk and Wagnalls, Collier, and New Merit Scholar encyclopedias. None of these formerly successful encyclopedias remained in print for long after being merged into Encarta.
Microsoft introduced several regional versions of Encarta translated into languages other than English. For example, the Brazilian Portuguese version was introduced in 1999 and suspended in 2002. The Spanish version is somewhat smaller than the English one, at 42,000 articles.
In July 2006, Websters Multimedia, a Bellevue, Washington subsidiary of London-based Websters International Publishers, took over maintenance of Encarta from Microsoft. The last version is Encarta Premium 2009, released in August 2008.
Microsoft announced in March 2009 that it would cease to sell Microsoft Student and all editions of Encarta Premium software products worldwide by June 2009, citing changes in the way people seek information and in the traditional encyclopedia and reference material market as the key reasons behind the termination. Updates for Encarta were offered until October 2009. Additionally, MSN Encarta web sites were discontinued around October 31, 2009, with the exception of Encarta Japan which was discontinued on December 31, 2009. Existing MSN Encarta Premium (part of MSN Premium) subscribers were refunded. Encartas closing is widely attributed to competition from the much larger online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Encartas standard edition included approximately 50,000 articles, with additional images, videos and sounds. The premium editions contain over 62,000 articles and other multimedia content, such as 25,000 pictures and illustrations, over 300 videos and animations, and an interactive atlas with 1.8 million locations. Its articles were integrated with multimedia content and could include links to websites selected by its editors. Encartas articles in general are less lengthy and more summarized than the printed version of Encyclopædia Britannica or the online Wikipedia. Like most multimedia encyclopedias, Encartas articles tended to provide an overview of the subject rather than an exhaustive coverage and can only be viewed one at a time.
A sidebar could display alternative views, essays, journals or original materials relevant to the topic. For example, when reading about computers, it featured annals since 1967 of the computer industry. Encarta also supported closed captioning for the hearing impaired. A separate program, called Encarta Research Organizer was included in early versions for gathering and organizing information and constructing a Word document-based report. Later versions included Encarta Researcher which was a browser plugin to organize information from Encarta articles and web pages into research projects. Content copied from Encarta is appended with a copyright boilerplate message after the selection. The user interface allows viewing content with only images, videos, sounds, animations, 360-degree views, virtual tours, charts and tables or only interactivities.
Encarta 2003 incorporated literature guides and book summaries, foreign language translation dictionaries, a Homework Center and Chart Maker. Encartas Visual Browser, available since the 2004 version, presented a user with a list of related topics making them more discoverable. A collection of 32 Discovery Channel videos have also since been added. Encarta 2005 introduced another program called Encarta Kids aimed at children to make learning fun.
Encarta also includes a trivia game called "MindMaze" (accessible through Ctrl+Z) in which the player explores a castle by answering questions whose answers can be found in the encyclopedias articles. There is also a Geography Quiz and several other games and quizzes, some quizzes also in Encarta Kids.
The dynamic maps were generated with the same engine that powered Microsoft MapPoint software. The map was a virtual globe that one can freely rotate and magnify to any location down to major streets for big cities.
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