The CD-ROM encyclopedias killed the printed versions, then the online encyclopedias killed the CD-ROMs, and now the free online encyclopedias (primarily Wikipedia, but also Google’s Knol) are killing off the paid online encyclopedias like Microsoft’s Encarta as Emil Protalinksi discovered:
When I first saw this, I had to do a double take. I made sure it wasn’t April 1 at least three times before I conceded. While looking around Encarta’s homepage today, I stumbled on a message that Microsoft was getting rid of MSN Encarta completely: "On October 31, 2009, MSN Encarta Web sites worldwide will be discontinued, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will be discontinued on December 31, 2009. Additionally, Microsoft will cease to sell Microsoft Student and Encarta Premium software products worldwide by June 2009." Looks like employees at Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica will be throwing parties tonight.
The Britannica employees would be better served by sprucing up their resumes. A Microsoft spokesman mostly said that it was an evolutionary step, which indeed it is, and would not reveal if there were any layoffs. See the Encarta Wikipedia entry (naturally) for more on Encarta’s history.