The results of the survey for my May 2005 Hey Microsoft! column indicated some confusion about how Microsoft decides whether to expose a particular piece of content on microsoft.com, TechNet, MSDN, or the Knowledge Base (KB). For example, one reader asked, “Why are TechNet and KB searches separate?” As part of my subsequent conversation with Microsoft’s Kurt Samuelson, general manager of Global Service Automation, Customer Service and Support (formerly Microsoft Product Support Services—PSS), we discussed how the various Microsoft Web sites work together and what each site’s mission is.

Microsoft defines the missions of its various Web properties in a way that most users probably aren’t aware of. Microsoft assumes you know that if you go to www.microsoft.com, you’ll find product information designed to help you make a purchasing decision—aka “presale” content. When you go to TechNet, Microsoft assumes that you're an IT pro who has already purchased a product and is looking for detailed technical information. TechNet, the “post-sale” site for IT pros, is the home of all product documentation, including all the Help files that are part of Windows Server (for example) and all the resource kit content, as well as technical white papers and how-to articles. MSDN is the post-sale site for developers.

Kurt is responsible for www.support.microsoft.com, which houses the KB, and his organization is separate from the team that runs TechNet and MSDN. I asked Kurt to explain how his support site relates to TechNet, MSDN, and microsoft.com.

“My mission aligns with customer service and support,” Kurt began. “We answer customers’ technical and customer-service problems. TechNet’s and MSDN’s missions are broader. They certainly provide solutions to problems. But TechNet also provides a richer set of information to the IT pro community, and MSDN focuses on the developer audience. So the KB content is a subset of what TechNet provides.”

What’s the relationship between the KB and TechNet? “In the past, the support site searched only the KB, and it was up to other Microsoft sites to incorporate the KB search into their site,” Kurt explained. “We know that people coming to the support site also want access to MSDN and TechNet, so now we index them as part of the support experience. If you come to support.microsoft.com, you will also have the option in Advanced Search to search MSDN and TechNet, and vice versa. We’re working closely with the TechNet team to make sure they’re leveraging support.microsoft.com’s services from a problem-resolution perspective in the context of the TechNet site. You’ll see that integration getting tighter over the next year. The best way to think about it is if you want an answer to a technical problem, you’re probably going to end up getting back to the Knowledge Base—it might be accessed through TechNet or MSDN or a different site because our goal in support is not necessarily to have the support site as a destination (to have a lot of people go there). Our goal is to make sure we get the answers published wherever the customers want to be. So if your preference is to stay on TechNet, we’ll always make sure that all the support content is surfaced on the TechNet site appropriately.”

Are there other ways to access KB content? Kurt responded, “We also federate KB content to other partners. For example, our OEM partners federate the KB through their sites. So if you’re searching for an answer on one of our partner OEM sites, you many times will also be able to surface KB articles as well. They’re sourcing that through us so they can get full benefit of the rich indexing we do and the style sheets that make the content look like part of their site. Again, our goal is to deliver that answer to wherever the customer wants to be, whether that’s on one of our Microsoft properties or on one of our partner properties.”