The Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) is the portion of Microsoft responsible for managing the firm's relationship with developers and testers: hardware developers interested in the operating system (OS), developers standing on the various OS platforms, developers leveraging the API and scripting languages of Microsoft's many applications. The relationship management is situated in assorted media: web sites, newsletters, developer conferences, trade media, blogs and DVD distribution. The life cycle of the relationships ranges from legacy support through evangelizing potential offerings.
MSDN's primary web presence at msdn.microsoft.com is a collection of sites for the developer community that provide information, documentation, and discussion which is authored both by Microsoft and by the community at large. Recent emphasis on and incorporation of applications such as forums, blogs, library annotations, and social bookmarking are changing the nature of the MSDN site from a one-way information service to an open dialog between Microsoft and the developer community.  The main website, and most of its constituent applications below are available in 56 or more languages.
The MSDN Library is the centralized repository of official developer-related documentation. Document sets are published by various user assistance organizations within Microsoft, and the community has the opportunity on many of the pages to add their own annotations. Community Content contributions can be edited by anyone.
MSDN Forums are the web-based forums used by the community to discuss a wide variety of software development topics. MSDN Forums were migrated to an all-new platform during 2008 that provided new features designed to improve efficiency such as inline preview of threads, AJAX filtering, and a slide-up post editor.
Social bookmarking on MSDN Social was first launched in 2008, built on a new web platform that has user-tagging and feeds at its core. The goal of the social bookmarking application is to provide a method whereby members of the developer community can:
- Contribute to a database of quality links on any topic from across the web. By filtering on one or more tags, (e.g. ".net" and "database") users can discover popular or recent links and subscribe to a feed of those links.
- Find and follow experts' recommended sites. Each profile page includes a feed of the user's contributions. Users can be discovered through a drop-down menu on each bookmark.
- Demonstrate their expertise through the links displayed in their profile.
- Store their favorite links online.
The initial release of the application provides standard features for the genre, including a bookmarklet and import capabilities. The MSDN web site is also starting to incorporate feeds of social bookmarks from experts and the community, displayed alongside feeds from relevant bloggers.
Social Bookmarks will be discontinued as of October 1, 2009
The MSDN Gallery is a repository of community-authored code samples and projects. New in 2008, the purpose of the site is still evolving to complement Codeplex, the open-source project hosting site from Microsoft.
MSDN has historically offered a subscription package whereby developers have access and licenses to use nearly all Microsoft software that has ever been released to the public. Subscriptions are sold on an annual basis, and cost up to $10,939 USD per year per subscription, as it is offered in several tiers. Holders of such subscriptions (except the lowest library-only levels) receive new Microsoft software on DVDs or via downloads every few weeks or months. The software generally comes on specially marked MSDN discs, but contains the identical retail or volume-license software as it is released to the public.
Although in most cases the software itself functions exactly like the full product, the MSDN end-user license agreement prohibits use of the software in a business production environment. This is a legal restriction, not a technical one. As an example, MSDN regularly includes the latest Windows operating systems (such as Windows Vista and Windows 7), server software such as SQL Server 2008, development tools such as Visual Studio, and applications like Microsoft Office and MapPoint. For software that requires a product key, a Microsoft website generates these on demand. Such a package provides a single computer enthusiast with access to nearly everything Microsoft offers. However, a business caught with an office full of PCs and servers running the software included in an MSDN subscription without the appropriate non-MSDN licenses for those machines would be treated no differently in a software licensing audit than if the software were obtained through piracy.
Microsoft's MSDN license agreement makes a specific exception for Microsoft Office, allowing the subscription holder to personally use it for business purposes without needing a separate license - but only with the "MSDN Premium Subscription" and even so only "directly related to the design, development and test and/or documentation of software projects" as stated in the MSDN licensing FAQ. As would be expected, any software created with the development tools (like Visual Studio), along with the runtime components needed to use it, isn't restricted in any way by Microsoft either - such software can and regularly is used for business production purposes. The license agreement refers to several other items in the subscription and grants additional similar exceptions as appropriate.
An MSDN subscriber is entitled to activate as many copies as needed for his/her own development purposes. Therefore, if a computer enthusiast somehow has 20 computers at home which he uses himself for software development (and aren't acting as part of a business, for example, a server farm), one subscription allows all 20 of those computers to be running their own separate copy of Windows, Office, and any other Microsoft product. After a few installations, the activation keys will stop allowing automatic product activation over the Internet, but after a telephone call to the Product Activation hotline to confirm that the installations are indeed legitimate and consistent with the license agreement, the activations are granted over the phone.
Even though an MSDN subscription is on an annual basis (for retail subscriptions--volume licensing subscriptions can be multi-year), the license to use the software, according to the agreement, does not terminate. The individual just isn't entitled to any upgrades after the subscription has expired. An MSDN subscription also allows access to obsolete software from Microsoft's past. Although they aren't included in the regular CD/DVD shipments, subscribers can download old software such as MS-DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1 from MSDN Subscriber Downloads. Such software usually comes in the form of ISO or floppy disk image files that allow the subscriber to reproduce the original installation media after the download.
The division runs an information service provided by Microsoft for software developers. Its main focus is on Microsoft's .NET platform, however it also features articles on areas such as programming practices and design patterns. Many resources are available for free online, while others are available by mail via a subscription.
Universities and high schools can enroll in the MSDN Academic Alliance program, which provides access to some Microsoft developer software for their computer science and engineering students (and possibly other students or faculty as well). An MSDNAA account is not an MSDN account and cannot be used to access the subscriber's section of the MSDN website or its downloads.
Microsoft provides the editorial content for MSDN Magazine, a monthly publication. The magazine was created as a merger between the Microsoft Systems Journal (MSJ) and Microsoft Internet Developer (MIND) magazines in March 2000. MSJ back issues are available online. MSDN Magazine is available as a print magazine in the United States, and online in 11 languages.
MSDN2 was opened in November 2004 as a source for Visual Studio 2005 API information, with noteworthy differences being updated web site code, conforming better to web standards and thus giving a long awaited improved support for alternative web browsers to Internet Explorer in the API browser. In 2008, the original MSDN cluster was retired and MSDN2 became msdn.microsoft.com.
From 1992 on, "Dr.GUI" was the composite identity of the original group of Developer Technology Engineers that provided in-depth technical articles to the Library. This group maintained a column answering questions from subscribers. The early members included: Dale Rogerson, Ruediger R. Asche, Ken Lassesen, Nigel Thompson (a.k.a. Herman Rodent), Nancy Cluts, Paul Johns, Dennis Crain, Ken Bergmann. They were the best developers that could also communicate well in writing at Microsoft. Nigel Thompson was the developer that originally put Multimedia into Windows. Ken Lassesen produced the original system (Panda) to publish MSDN on the Internet and in HTML instead of the earlier multimedia viewer engine.
- ↑ Martin, John (2008-08-27). "Microsoft is Planning Much More Than Just Social Bookmarking". Microsoft TechNet. http://blogs.technet.com/johmar/archive/2008/08/27/microsoft-is-planning-much-more-than-just-social-bookmarking.aspx. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
- ↑ "MSDN Worldwide". Microsoft. http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/worldwide/default.aspx. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
- ↑ Martin, John (2008-05-30). "New Social Bookmarking Feeds in MSDN Dev Centers". Microsoft TechNet. http://blogs.technet.com/johmar/archive/2008/05/30/new-social-bookmarking-feeds-in-msdn-dev-centers.aspx. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 "MSDN End User License Agreement" (PDF). Microsoft. http://download.microsoft.com/documents/useterms/MSDN%20Subscription_Premium%20Edition_English_36b85cb5-cdc0-43d8-90c1-fa168f15ee6d.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
- ↑ Stuart J. Johnston (August, 3 1992). "Microsoft initiates Developer Network service". InfoWorld: p. 8. http://books.google.pl/books?id=IVEEAAAAMBAJ.
- ↑ Stuart J. Johnston (November, 29 1993). "Microsoft launches Network Level II". InfoWorld: p. 5. http://books.google.com/books?id=_joEAAAAMBAJ.
- ↑ Larry W Jordan Jr (2008-04-29). "MSDN: "The Highlander" and there will be only one!". MSDN Blogs. http://blogs.msdn.com/innovation/archive/2008/04/29/msdn-highlander-there-will-be-only-one.aspx. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
- MSDN Home page
- MSDN Home page (UK)
- MSDN Blogs
- MSDN Social Bookmarks
- Previous version of MSDN Forums
- MSDN Events
- MSDN Magazine
- MSDN Wiki beta (Visual Studio, .NET -related documentation and software drop site. No talk pages yet - Comments are meant to go elsewhere, such as Channel 9.)
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