Today, Microsoft announced the first major overhaul of its MSN web portal in several years, providing a fresh, less-cluttered look, integration with popular social networks, and interesting new local capabilities. MSN has been redesigned to answer customer complaints and feedback, and with 100 million daily users in the United States alone, it remains one of the most popular destinations on the web.

"MSN is the best homepage on the web," MSN General Manager Bob Visse told me during a recent briefing. "It offers the best experience for consumers, the best search experience, information and news that people care about, and convenient ways to communicate with social networks as well as the Windows Live and Hotmail experiences."

MSN's new homepage has been redesigned with far fewer links and an elegant, whitespace-heavy layout that brings key content areas such as news, entertainment, sports, money, and lifestyle to the forefront. It uses reverse IP technology to provide access to local weather forecasts; traffic maps; professional, college, and even high school sports coverage (via Fox Sports); movies and events listings; restaurant reviews and menus; and local gas prices (with maps). Microsoft says this kind of coverage will help overcome problems people are having with failing local newspapers.

The site integrates as expected with Microsoft services such as Bing search, Hotmail, and Windows Live. But it also provides simple access to popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. There's a new version of the MSN mobile site for smart phones as well.

You can check out the new MSN here. Microsoft says that this new site will roll out automatically to all customers worldwide by early next year.