THIS is the end of the line for Encarta, the encyclopedia that Microsoft introduced in 1993 and still describes boastfully on its Web site as “the No. 1 best-selling encyclopedia software brand for the past eight years.” Microsoft recently announced that sales would soon cease and that the Encarta Web site, supported by advertising, would be shut down later this year.
It’s hard to look at the end of the Encarta experiment without the free and much larger Wikipedia springing immediately to mind. But Encarta arguably would have failed even without that competition. The Google-indexed Web forms a virtual encyclopedia that Encarta never had a chance of competing against.